Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Stinson and Suarez vie for Porter nomination

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Greg Stinson says his professional background in planning and program evaluation makes him the independent voice the Porter Town Council needs.

A Democrat, Stinson faces William Suarez in Tuesday’s primary voting. The Ward 5 seat they seek currently is held by Michele Bollinger, who is an unopposed candidate on the Republican ballot in the November general election.

Below are Stinson’s responses to a Chesterton Tribune questionnaire; some answers were condensed due to length. Suarez did not respond.

GREG STINSON

Age: 48

Occupation: Director of Institutional Research and Assessment, Valparaiso University

Years lived in Porter: My wife, Rondi Wightman, and I have lived in Porter for 12 years.

Why do you seek this office? I have become increasingly concerned about the management of the town over the past few years. The lack of civility and professionalism exhibited by certain members of the Town Council, attempts to take control of the Parks, and the attempt to place a council member on the Board of Zoning Appeals (in violation of Indiana Code) are just a few examples of recent actions that convinced me change is needed. There is a need for an independent voice on the council who will examine issues and make decisions based on merit and not because they further the interests of any specific group or individual agenda.

Why should primary voters elect you instead of your opponent? I have been active in the town for many years. I have served on both the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Plan Commission since 2005. I have also been an active supporter of activities in our parks. I regularly attend council meetings and other events to stay informed about town issues and plans. My professional experience in areas like planning, productivity, cost-revenue projections and program evaluation will greatly benefit the town. We need to identify ways to work smarter to ensure essential services continue to be provided with the limited resources available to us. Maximizing efficiency and effectiveness requires people with strong analytical skills and experience in balancing short-term needs with long-term planning. This is the work I have done at Valparaiso University for the past 11 years.

Please list what would guide your decisions as a Porter Town Council member: I am an analyst and statistician by training. My work requires me to remain independent and base decisions on the facts. I will always listen to all sides on an issue and then base my decision on what is in the best interests of the town. I have no ties to other groups or organizations that can directly or indirectly exert influence on me. I consider myself a Democrat, but I am not active in the party and would never let party politics bias my decisions. In the end, I will vote my conscience based on the relevant information before me.

What would be your priorities if elected? I will work to restore citizen confidence in the Town Council by changing the tone in Town Hall and answering citizen questions when they are asked either in meetings or in private. Too often the questions of citizens are met with the response, “Thank you for your comment.” I know the difference between a question and a comment, and will do my best to respond promptly and respectfully to citizen concerns. I will work to review town ordinances and policies to assure their compliance with Indiana code and that they are being properly applied and enforced. I will order a review of current practices regarding outsourcing and consultants to ensure that we maximize efficiency and efficiently spend taxpayer funds. I will request a spending review on town vehicles for non-emergency personnel, health benefits to council members, and other peripheral expenses that could be better used to provide services or pay raises.

Do you support Porter’s Gateway to the Indiana Dunes initiative? The Brickyard development? Why or why not? I support the general Gateway concept and believe that with proper planning/management it could be a major asset to the town and region. However, the Traffic Report provided an incomplete picture of flow, and peak-season traffic and the impact of changes to 49 are not adequately addressed. My main concern is the broad authority granted to the Redevelopment Commission to negotiate contracts and commit the town. I believe long-term Gateway commitments using public financing should be managed by the elected Town Council, not an appointed body. I see numerous problems with the Brickyard plan. Two environmental studies conducted raised serious issues about the levels of toxins on the site, yet a more-detailed boring study was not ordered by the town before it purchased the land. The property’s current grading makes it difficult to develop as proposed. I question the feasibility of and demand for a large assisted-living senior facility to anchor this site.

Do you believe Park Department employees should be under the direct jurisdiction and supervision of the Town Council? There is no legitimate reason for the council’s attempt to circumvent the Park Board and take control of employees and other aspects of park management. Indiana code specifically states park employees and other budgetary decisions fall under the jurisdiction of the Park Board in towns where one is in place. The council’s attempt to change this is another example of actions that are in opposition to existing codes and ordinances. The real issues are why the Town Council was so intent on taking control, and that its current president specifically stated the council reserved the right to revisit the park issue in the future. The current system has been in place since the Porter Park Board was established in 1934. Our parks are among the most beautiful and well-maintained in the region. I see no reason to change a system that has worked so effectively and enjoys such broad community support.

What would make Porter a better place to live/work? Growth and change are vital components of any plan for improving the town. We also need to be prudent and conservative in the methods used to implement these changes. I understand the attraction of multi-million dollar grants to a small town, but we must make sure we don’t lose sight of who we are in our race to obtain and spend this money. Any development plans must be balanced with efforts to ensure that the core values and general character of the town remain. Development must be conducted in a manner that is sustainable and minimizes risks. Improved civility in the Town Council both toward each other and toward residents also would improve life in Porter. All too often I hear complaints from citizens on this issue. Council members can lead the way by being open in discussing town business, treating all citizens with the respect they deserve, and conducting the town’s business in a courteous, professional manner.

 

Posted 4/28/2011

 

 

 

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