HAMMOND | David Hamm, former city councilman and fire chief, is a candidate for an upcoming vacancy on the Lake County Council.
"I'm concerned about the $15 million being put on the taxpayers' credit card," Hamm said of the County Council's 2013 county government budget, which calls for $15.5 million in loans to balance anticipated spending.
He adds that if elected he would not rule out voting for passage of a local option income tax as a last resort to raise local government revenues to maintain essential government services.
Hamm spoke about the office after the results of Tuesday's election made clear Councilman Mike Repay, D-Hammond, won election as a Lake County commissioner.
Repay said he intends to remain on the County Council until the end of this year when he will resign from it and be sworn as one of three members of the Board of Lake County Commissioners.
Repay said Wednesday that Hamm has the advantage of Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.'s support to fill the County Council seat. But Repay added, "There are a lot of people who are considering running. Dave Hamm is not one I would ask to fill my seat."
McDermott is expected to call a caucus of Democratic precinct committeemen in the council's 1st District, which includes Hammond, Whiting and the northernmost sections of Munster, to name a new councilman.
Hammond City Councilman Bob Markovich said Wednesday he is considering a possible run for the same county council seat. Markovich is serving his seventh four-year term as a city official.
Hamm, a lifelong Hammond resident, said he has been active in the Democratic Party since he was elected a precinct committeeman in 1977. He also has been Hammond's Democratic city chairman.
He served as a police officer from 1978 to 1980 and a Hammond firefighter since 1980. He was elected to the Hammond City Council in 1995, 1999 and 2003. He resigned from the council eight years ago to become city fire chief, where he continued until his retirement last year.
Hamm has remained a close political confidante of McDermott. Hamm was the mayor's proxy representative Tuesday night on the county elections board.
Hamm said his experience on the City Council as finance chairman qualifies him to serve on county government's legislative and fiscal body.
Lake is the only county in the state that has not imposed a local income tax. Democrats on the council, including Repay, have been opposed to an income tax on grounds it unfairly burdens working people because it isn't imposed on businesses' income.
However, Hamm said he believes passing a local income tax is inevitable. "It would be a last resort, but it's something I would explore. We are being punished for not having it. I think it's the reason the governor wouldn't give us money for the Cline Avenue bridge," Hamm said.
Markovich, who often clashes with the mayor, said he cannot support a local income tax.