In an unexpected move at the end of Tuesday night’s Porter County Council
meeting, council member Laura Blaney, D-at large, said to her peers the
county needs to have representation on the Northwest Indiana Regional
Development Authority’s board of directors.
After the suggestion, Blaney immediately nominated local hotel service
operator Jeff Good to the county’s seat on the RDA development board.
“He’s going to look out for Porter County. He’s got our backs,” said Blaney,
who called Good a “leader” in the business community.
Since the council voted in April to appeal a Jasper County Court judge’s
decision that the county is legally bound to stay a member of the RDA,
council members have shown reluctance in bringing someone back the RDA
board, believing the move could somehow nullify the appeal.
Other community leaders have made the plea that the county should be
represented since the judge also ordered the county to continue paying its
$3.5 million in annual RDA dues. The money is given to the RDA through a
0.25 county economic development income tax.
A consistent opponent of the RDA, Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large,
said he has put a lot of thought into what effect the appointment would have
on the appeal. Whitten said he still feels Porter County has not seen enough
benefit from the RDA, but the ultimate reason for the appeal is to fight
against state legislation that mandates the county pay its portion of the
$17 million the RDA collects from local governments.
After Council attorney Scott McClure assured him there would be no effect on
the appeal, Whitten then believed having a board representative would give
the county more insight on the inner workings of the RDA. He said the RDA
board has met frequently in executive sessions which he says discuss funding
issues. “We have to have someone who can report to us what their plans are,”
Whitten spoke of other possible RDA dealings that he would like the county
to monitor. He said he would like to find out plans for funding the Regional
Bus Authority and if the city of Gary has paid its dues to the RDA.
Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large, echoed Whitten’s stance that the
county needs to know the details of the RDA and she also thinks the council
should strive to find out about other public organizations working within
“There are things going on in our county that we are not aware of,” she
said. “We need transparency.”
Council member Karen Conover, R-3rd, who is one of the council’s pro-RDA
members, said she did not know until Monday that the council would be
considering appointing someone during Tuesday’s meeting and asked for the
council to follow a regular appointment process by advertising the spot and
The appointment to the RDA board had not been listed on Tuesday’s agenda.
Sitting in on the meeting, Northern County Commissioner John Evans said he
would agree with all that had been said but reminded the council that this
would be a mutual appointment between the council and the commissioners.
Given the seriousness of the RDA seat, Evans too felt the need to thoroughly
consider other candidates by taking applications.
“We are not being fair to the people, he said.
One other application did come in right before the meeting from outgoing
County Clerk Pamela Mishler Fish who cited her past experience in business.
Evans said he was not completely sure an appointment could be made
presently, believing that the commissioners never did officially rescind the
previous RDA board appointment, Gus Olympidis.
Whitten said he spoke with Olympidis who had no interest in returning to the
post. He then asked the three incoming council members sitting in the
audience for their opinions.
County Council member-elect Jim Biggs, a Republican who will be taking the
council’s first district seat in January, said he would support whatever the
council decides but felt it would be best if the council made its decision
so they can focus on other things starting next year.
“There are about 999 other things we should be concentrating on,” said
Incoming member Republican James Polarek, who will be representing the
Fourth District, said the county’s RDA seat has been vacant for too long.
Incoming District Two county council member Democrat Jeremy Rivas felt the
matter should be deferred until January.
The council then voted 4-3 in favor of making an appointment that night.
Voting in favor was Whitten, Blaney, Graham, and Rita Stevenson, D-2nd.
Those against were Conover, Robert Poparad, D-1st, and Marylyn Johns, D-4th.
A second vote was taken under a motion to appoint Good with similar results.
The naysayers of the previous roll call all voted to abstain. The motion
passed with four votes.
While saying he had no problem with Good’s qualifications, Poparad broke his
silence after the vote saying the public should have been notified that the
council was going to make a selection and questioned why council members who
were against the RDA were “warm and fuzzy” about the appointment.
Whitten and Graham both commented that their feelings about the RDA and the
appeal have not changed but felt an appointee should be determined as
quickly as possible.
“This is no indication that we are changing the course,” said Whitten.
Oral arguments for the council’s appeal have been scheduled for Jan. 20 in
the state’s appellate court.
In order for the appointment to be ratified, the county commissioners would
need to vote their approval.
Outgoing Porter County Commissioner President Robert Harper, D-Center, said
this morning he will put the vote for the appointment on the agenda for the
upcoming commissioners meeting on Dec. 7.
Harper, a strong opponent of the RDA, personally felt the appointment should
be made immediately and said it was “astonishing” that a few council members
would even think of postponing the matter when the RDA is meeting in
executive sessions likely on funding issues.
RDA Executive Director Bill Hanna told the Chesterton Tribune this
morning the organization does not give comments on appointments until they
According to the Indiana law that created the RDA, a member of the
development board must have five years experience in one of the following
fields: rail or air transportation, regional economic development, or
Good has been in the hotel business for almost 20 years and has managed Good
Hospitality Services for 17 years, a company that contracts services with 20
Good said he wishes to fulfill the council’s wishes of bringing greater
transparency and will report to them on a regular basis.
If officially appointed, his first objective would be to get acquainted with
the operations of the RDA and be in contact with city and county officials.
“At least for the next three months, I’ve got a lot of fact finding to do,”
said Good. “I’ve got to spend a lot of time getting everyone comfortable.”
Although a Republican and a self-proclaimed proponent of the RDA, Good said
he does not see anything political about his appointment.
“I want to work with everybody here.”
As the current president of the Porter County Convention, Recrea-tion and
Visitors Commission, Good has looked at working with the Town of Porter on
the Gateway to the Dunes Project which received $1.8 million from the RDA.