DOUG ROSS: Incumbents scolded, bureaucrat meets autocrat

2014-05-09T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: Incumbents scolded, bureaucrat meets autocratBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

Tuesday's primary election proved Porter County isn't the paradise many public officials believe it to be.

That's especially true at the county level of government.

Two high-profile incumbents — County Commissioner Nancy Adams and Councilman Jim Polarek — were given the boot, and Councilman Jim Biggs squeaked past his opponent by just 11 votes.

I take that as a sign the rumblings I've heard about dissatisfaction with county government run strong.

Those upsets were all on the Republican ballot, but then there was little to choose from on the Democratic ballot. That doesn't mean there aren't many Democrats in Porter County, only that the dearth of competitive races on the Democrats' ballot drove the action to the Republican side.

So what's the source of that dissatisfaction? I believe it's the dysfunction.

Porter County has a budget this year with a built-in deficit. That's never a good sign.

And the good government types — the bureaucrats who famously put together quality improvements — have met resistance from the old-style elected officials whose support depends on a patronage army.

That surfaced again Wednesday, when Assessor Jon Snyder said Board of Commissioners President John Evans told him to surrender the county-owned vehicle and, within 30 days, one of the offices Snyder's department uses on the top floor of the Porter County Administration Building.

It was a case of an elected bureaucrat versus an autocratic ruler.

Evans said he has the right to do so because he is president of the commissioners. But what do his fellow commissioners say about that?

This sounds like dirty politics, which the Porter County residents who moved from Lake County want no part of.

Residents are also fed up with inaction by the county. Issues are being talked about to death, but without being resolved.

Porter County needs a new animal shelter, and someone even offered to help substantially in paying the cost of the new building. But this dysfunctional county government is no closer to building that new structure than it was four years ago.

A report by the Jobs Cabinet, commissioned by Evans, is gathering dust. Where's the action urged by the people who worked on that report? Where's the urgency to build the infrastructure to create jobs?

And where's the urgency to address the incredibly generous employee benefits? Residents are grumbling about county employees' unbelievably low health insurance premiums and excessive number of paid holidays. 

My theory is the commissioners are loathe to become less generous because they want those employees to be loyal voters. That's politics trumping good governance, and residents want no part of that.

Voter turnout was low in the primary, at just 10.99 percent in Porter County. But don't take that as apathy. This fall, I wouldn't be surprised to see more expressions of disgust with the continued dysfunction.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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