VALPARAISO | The rematch between Mayor Jon Costas and former Councilman Bob McCasland could help determine the city's path for more than the next four years.
Costas, 54, defeated McCasland, 60, in the Republican primary four years ago. McCasland decided to run as an Independent this time because "I don't have the financial resources behind me that he has." No Democrats filed to run in the general election.
When he first ran in 2003, Costas set his goals for his first term. This later was used to write his five-year strategic plan after he was elected. That was revised in 2009 for another five years after his second election victory. If elected to a third term, Costas said he wants to develop a 10- to 20-year plan for the city.
"Now that we've accomplished many of the obvious things, like fixing the streets, repairing sidewalks, starting a city bus service and a commuter bus service, and we have a plan for U.S. 30, where does the city want to be in 10 or 20 years?" he said. "In 2013 I want to take on a very ambitious strategic planning process involving virtually everybody in the city."
Costas expects the plan to take a year to develop. Meanwhile, goals remain from the current plan, such as complete the recommendations for the U.S. 30 corridor, find a solution to the need for a new public works facility, continue infrastructure improvements and investments in the downtown, develop a shovel-ready business park for new businesses and work with existing businesses to help them expand.
McCasland said he would be a full-time mayor and eliminate the city administrator's position created shortly after Costas took office. He said he would redirect the city's Redevelopment Commission to be totally focused on job creation.
"We're going to go out and get sustainable jobs," he said. "I think $40,000 for a family of four isn't a lot of money. We need to create jobs that aren't necessarily restaurant jobs."
McCasland said his campaign is based on "transparent and ethical government," adding, "You can't be mayor and a developer at the same time" because of the conflict of interest. He also favors term limits.
"Government has to be more open to the people," McCasland said. "Too many things operate in secrecy. It's the same implications as in Lake County. I would create a merit board for city employees to clean up the ethics problem. I don't think employees need to worry about what party the mayor is. They are employees of the city, not the mayor. I have no partisan politics, and I owe no one anything and I made no promises."
Costas said if voters like what's happened in the city the past eight years and want to see it continue, and, if they feel prouder about the community than they did eight years ago, they should vote for him.
McCasland said, "It's time for the city to have a full-time mayor and that's his only job. Why are we paying two people to do the mayor's job? If you don't want the job, don't run for it. I'm not taking money from vendors or large contributions from people. To me, that's the way things ought to be done. Above board."
Costas is a lawyer with Burke, Costanza and Carberry in addition to owning a restaurant. He and his wife, Sharon, have four children. McCasland owns McCasland Leasing and MEL-REB Inc. He and his wife, Sharon, have two children and two grandchildren.