Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

County Commissioner Race: Adams: Cooperation is crucial to improving government and economy

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

She can run Strongbow Inn, but can political newcomer Nancy Adams run Porter County government?

In an interview with the Chesterton Tribune, Adams, 48, said in her role as co-owner of the Valparaiso restaurant she has managed a staff of 150 employees while at the same time balancing budgets which is the example she wants to set as a Porter County center district commissioner.

Republican Adams is challenging incumbent Democrat Porter County commissioner Robert Harper in the Nov. 2 general elections.

Adams said she got interested in government when the 2008 assessment values and taxes for her restaurant ballooned significantly, resulting in a 66 percent tax increase for the business. When she sought answers from county officials, she found that accessing them was not an easy thing.

Adams feels there needs to be better service given to county residents, especially to those who might be in danger of losing their homes.

Indiana could see a form of property tax reform this year as voters will decide whether they want the state to place a one percent tax cap on personal property, a two percent cap on rental properties, and a three percent cap on businesses.

Adams said she is in favor of the tax caps but also wants people to know that caps are just one part of the equation. She feels how the state figures assessed values also needs to be addressed. In 2009, she and her husband Russ Adams assisted in the creation of the group, Indiana People Advocating Reasonable Taxation, or INPART, in response to state assessment policies.

If Adams is victorious in the election, she says the first item of business is developing a comprehensive plan for the county that will involve input from not only all county officials, but also mayors and other town and city officials.

Right now, the county lacks a clear vision, she argues.

“We have to have a plan for growth,” she said. “Most of the growth will be in cities and towns. We need to figure out what visions they are proposing for growth so we all can be on the same page. In the end, it’s going to be good for our county also.”

Adams said Porter County is statistically the fifth fastest growing county in Indiana. Developing a growth management plan would be the best thing the county can do since “you can’t stop growth from happening,” she said.

Sub-plans for rural areas and small municipalities within the master plan would be instrumental to keep the county’s rural “flavor,” said Adams, who feels the separate communities bring a unique quality to Porter County. “You can’t treat Kouts the same way you treat Portage.”

Planning ordinances should also be established in a clear way so businesses wanting to come to Porter County can understand what the county is looking for, she said. There would need to be a “happy medium,” she said, for county officials to make sure development does not negatively affect the area but also to give businesses some freedom to design their infrastructure to their liking.

She asks that the county meet with the businesses and also include town officials to find out what is conducive.

“All this is not going to be good if we don’t sit down and collaborate with cities and towns. Communication is the most important thing.” said Adams.

Adams does not anticipate the Indiana General Assembly imposing any new taxes on the county next year.

She said she is against new taxes in general, but would make an exception if proper research beforehand determines a tax would be beneficial to the county.

More collaboration and open discussion should have been done by the Porter County Council before they decided to implement a .25 income tax in 2005 to fund the county’s membership in the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, Adams said, then only four years later to withdraw from the agency by a 4-3 vote.

Adams said the county should open up the communication lines to find out what’s best for the county now that a Jasper County Circuit Court judge has ruled the county is to remain a member. The judge also ordered the county to continue paying its $3.5 million in RDA membership dues.

“It’s coming to the point where whether we like it or not, we are stuck with the RDA. We’re beating a dead horse saying we don’t want it but we’re still paying into it so let’s figure out what we need so we can benefit the most.”

Opponent Harper has stood in support of the council’s decision and feels that regional groups would only create more taxes for county residents.

Adams said the county doesn’t have to dive into partnerships with neighboring counties, but we should at least acknowledge their presence and be able to help them if possible.

Bringing jobs back to Porter County is another ambition for Adams who wants the county to set itself up in a way that can sustain a prosperous future for young people who want to remain here. More businesses and bigger population will boost the county’s economy no matter what area it is in and make property taxes more affordable, she said.

Adams stressed the importance of talking with community leaders in order to pool resources for job creation.

Besides fostering a brighter future, Adams is also fascinated with the county’s history and would like to see improvements made to the Porter County Jail Museum and the Memorial Opera House in downtown Valparaiso.

“The Marx Brothers once played there! What other place can say that? That’s amazing!” she said.

Adams also wouldn’t mind if the county used some of the $9 million in interest from the sale of Porter hospital to fix up major roads in need of repair.

“If they could fix up Willowcreek Road in Portage, that’d be a huge benefit,” she said.

Adams said county officials should have started earlier to hold discussion on possible uses for the money.

She disagrees with the suggestion that the money should all be used for property tax relief, saying that not everybody in the county would benefit because not everyone is a property owner.

Adams said the best skill a commissioner can have is lending an ear.

“People are tired and they feel like nobody is listening to them,” she said.

“You shouldn’t have a personal agenda. Your agenda should be what’s best for the county. We need to make sure we thrive. To me, that’s the most important thing.”

 

 

Posted 10/12/2010

 

 

 

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