VALPARAISO | The stage of the Chicago Street Theater provided a different sort of drama Tuesday with a cast of two, the man running for mayor of Valparaiso.
Mayor Jon Costas and challenger Bob McCasland told the near full house they agreed on the importance of keeping neighborhood schools, that they preferred the appointed school board but would support a change to an elected board if residents wanted it, and that the city's worst problem is drugs.
They found plenty of things to disagree about in between. McCasland stressed his goal to be a full-time mayor with no outside business interests and his plans to reduce redundancy and the use of outside consultants in favor of local businesses. By eliminating some positions, he would have more money to spend fighting the drug problems, he said.
Costas cited his record of accomplishments over the past eight years and doing it with the aid of $57 million in state and federal funding. He said he spends the vast majority of his time being mayor, but said the success the city has had is due in large part to the talents of his administrative team.
The biggest disagreement came on whether they would serve the full term or, if asked, seek higher office as Costas did in a run for state attorney general a couple of years ago. McCasland left no doubt, saying he would not leave under any condition. Costas said he could not answer a hypothetical question but said he is running with the intent of serving as mayor.
McCasland said he would strengthen the older neighborhoods by using $250,000 from the city's share of the county economic development income tax to allocate $50,000 for each council district to be spent in the district as each councilman saw fit. Both men supported Porter County's involvement in the Regional Development Authority, but McCasland said he was unhappy with the county's representative on the board and the number of representatives the county has.
McCasland said the ChicaGo Dash express commuter bus service has the potential to be self-supporting enough to continue but questioned the V-Line's viability saying fares might have to be raised or changes made in the operation. Costas said the V-Line is supported with CEDIT funds and Valparaiso University subsidies and is depended on by many poorer residents. He added all transportation is subsidized.
The debate was sponsored by the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, which will host a debate for all the council candidates at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Memorial Opera House.