Chesterton Tribune

No incumbents: Four vie for two seats in Burns Harbor at-large Town Council race

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By PAULENE POPARAD

The two At-Large seats on the Burns Harbor Town Council are up for grabs with the incumbents, Republican Toni Biancardi and Democrat Louis Bain, both deciding not to run again.

Hoping to claim victory Nov. 8 are Republicans Jack Given and Rick Hummel, and Democrats Gregory Miller and Gene Weibl.

Given is a self-employed builder of green modular homes and an area representative for Cultural Academic Student Exchange, which places foreign students with host families. Hummel is retired, and Miller is an electrician/process technician for Lafarge NA.

Below in the order they appear on the ballot are the candidates’ responses to a Chesterton Tribune questionnaire. Some answers were condensed due to length. Weibl did not respond by the deadline.

 

Click Here or scroll down for:

GREGORY MILLER

 

RICK HUMMEL

 

JACK GIVEN

Age: 68

Years lived in town: 2

What qualifications/experience do you have that makes you the best candidate for your office? Masters Degree in Social Work: experience in conflict resolution and active listening and am trained to deal with conflicts and bring about resolutions. Real estate broker: I realize that time is of the essence in developing and maintaining time lines and achieving goals by deadlines. I can foster discipline and accountability so the council conducts business more efficiently and agenda items are dealt with in a timely manner.

If elected, what three projects, changes or policies would you like to see implemented for Burns Harbor? 1) The Porter County Tourism branding seminar listed fireworks as the image of Burns Harbor. We need to develop a positive “branding.” The Town logo, Burns Harbor, the Art of Living Green, is a start. We boast the 1st nationally certified green community; industrially we produce steel, which is indefinitely recyclable. Both are assets to build on to advance a better Town image. 2) The foresight and work of the Town to develop a master plan needs to be nourished and implemented. 3) We need more openness, honesty, transparency and accountability: i.e. recent tax abatement request for 2013 to 2023 was presented with little hearing or discussion of benefits to the industry or community. The clerk-treasurer instituted a policy without written documentation and one that is contrary to Taxable Fringe Benefit Guide found at www.irs.gov.

If presented again, would you support Mittal’s request to extend its tax abatement in return for Mittal paying off outstanding Town sewer bonds? It needs to be presented, discussed and weighed --- pros and cons. Act in haste, repent in leisure: not a good policy.

Items have been carried on the Town Council agenda for months before final action on them occurs; how could Town business be conducted more efficiently? “A new broom sweeps clean.” Much of the inefficiency of town business is due to the “old broom” --- people on the council who have been there too long. Although 2 of the council are “old broom” and unopposed, 3 council members (3rd District and 2 At-Large) plus the town clerk are up for election. Bringing in a majority of “new broom, including town clerk” could help improve town government and business efficiency.

What role should the Town Council play in implementing the Downtown District master plan? Securing infrastructure financing and marketing the plan to businesses that can enhance the image of the Town.

Burns Harbor residents currently pay no Town user fee other than a sewer bill. Do you believe it will become necessary within the next four years to charge a garbage-collection fee or similar fee(s)? The question requires creative, innovative approach: is competitive bidding available for cost control? Is a recycling effort, including composting, gardens or mulching an option? Taxes or fees are too often the opiate that stifles innovation.

What will be your main priority as a member of the Burns Harbor Town Council? Foster integrity, accountability and pride in the work of government and service to the Town. Recently a councilman came to the council with a Tootsie Pop sucker. If you disrespect the room, you disrespect the office and function. As one of the Democrat candidates, pre-caucus said, “We deserve better.”

 

RICK HUMMEL

Age: 55

Years lived in town? 9 years, wife Shirley (Boatright) 35 years.

What qualifications/experience do you have that makes you the best candidate for your office? I have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with additional core classes in Project Management. I also hold Certified Logistics Associate and a Certified Logistics Technician. Attended Burns Harbor board meetings for the past 5 years and have been involved with various subject matter discussions.

If elected, what three projects, changes or policies would you like to see implemented for Burns Harbor? 1) Implementation of comprehensive plan. 2) Move forward with capital improvements. 3) Work with other agencies in cooperation with the Marquette Pathway Project.

If presented again, would you support Mittal’s request to extend its tax abatement in return for Mittal paying off outstanding Town sewer bonds? I would have to look deeper into both situations and come up with the best solution that benefits the citizens of Burns Harbor keeping in mind that Mittal has been a good neighbor.

Items have been carried on the Town Council agenda for months before final action on them occurs; how could Town business be conducted more efficiently? By reaching out to the community in a more pro-active way via town meetings at a more convenient time for residents to attend and/or getting out into the community to speak to residents and get their views and opinions.

What role should the Town Council play in implementing the Downtown District master plan? Leading by marketing and giving new business tax abatements and all tools at their disposal. The council should promote and preserve a vibrant economy by encouraging business development and affordable housing to create and sustain strong, healthy neighborhoods.

Burns Harbor residents currently pay no Town user fee other than a sewer bill. Do you believe it will become necessary within the next four years to charge a garbage-collection fee or similar fee(s)? I believe that the Town Board will successfully renew any contract that will not burden the residents of Burns Harbor with any such fees.

What will be your main priority as a member of the Burns Harbor Town Council? To seek economic growth by moving forward with the Town’s comprehensive plan and a Downtown district that will benefit the people of Burns Harbor.

 

GREGORY MILLER

Age: 37

Years lived in town: 2

What qualifications/experience do you have that makes you the best candidate for your office? I have experience as a board member with 3 different NWI non-profits. Being on these boards, I have become familiarized with issues of budget, planning and administration in a council-type forum. I believe I have a clear vision for our Town, and the ability to help implement it.

If elected, what three projects, changes or policies would you like to see implemented for Burns Harbor? I unequivocally support the implementation of the comprehensive plan to develop a downtown district with the retail options, job opportunities, and services that our residents deserve. We have a unique opportunity to leverage our central location to attract all these things and we have yet to capitalize on it. I propose that barriers to new businesses be reduced by streamlining bureaucratic hurdles and creating incentives for new businesses to locate in Burns Harbor. The Town should present an attractive face for potential new commerce, providing convenient and courteous service to all comers.

If presented again, would you support Mittal’s request to extend its tax abatement in return for Mittal paying off outstanding Town sewer bonds? I’m not extremely well-versed on public finance yet, but it seems the purpose of the sewer infrastructure is to help attract development. The costs to land retail businesses are quite substantial. Why would we undercut future revenues to fund additional needs such as roads, sidewalks, etc. in order to pay off sewer bonds? The relevant financial implications of the various scenarios need to be examined in detail. Mittal tries to utilize the memory of the (2001) Bethlehem Steel bankruptcy to steer Town policy to their advantage, but part of the problem is our heavy reliance on Mittal. One of the many purposes of developing our Town is to broaden Burns Harbor’s revenue base, and to provide for alternative employment and economic opportunity. Going forward, it makes sense to cultivate economic diversity.

Items have been carried on the Town Council agenda for months before final action on them occurs; how could Town business be conducted more efficiently? By calling for more motions to force the issues, and not being pressured to retract those motions. If a motion is called, it should be voted on. It seems a lot of straight forward items are dithered on unnecessarily. The Town pays professionals such as an attorney and an engineer for their expertise. If the council has confidence in that expertise, it should be acted on promptly, without seeking numerous additional opinions. If the council has no confidence in the expertise, or opinions aren’t rendered in a timely manner, then new professionals need to be hired. The five council members, acting on expert opinions, are the legal and political authority of the Town. Town employees and administrative officials should implement policy as passed. There are legal avenues to challenge misguided policy, but short of that, administrators need to administer policy not debate it.

What role should the Town Council play in implementing the Downtown District master plan? Barriers to attracting businesses need to be streamlined, particularly administrative ones. The council should pursue intelligent and well-reasoned revenue policies to facilitate the funding of the needed infrastructure. Financial decisions need to be reasonably examined and explained in the context of cost versus benefits. Policy should shift away from being trucking friendly to being family friendly.

Burns Harbor residents currently pay no Town user fee other than a sewer bill. Do you believe it will become necessary within the next four years to charge a garbage-collection fee or similar fee(s)? This is an example of what I mean by implementing well-reasoned policy. It is difficult to answer a question such as this without being privy to the relevant details. I understand there is a tendency to make issues such as taxes and fees monolithic, for or against, but it is seldom that simple. What are the costs to the Town? How does that fit into the overall revenue picture? Nobody wants to impose a fee for its own sake, and I believe these issues shouldn’t be framed this way.

What will be your main priority as a member of the Burns Harbor Town Council? To conduct the people’s business efficiently, transparently, and in a way that promotes the good of all the residents, not just a few. I believe this goal can be accomplished by promoting economic development of our Town, and utilizing the natural advantages we have by virtue of our location in greater NW Indiana.

 

 

Posted 11/2/2011