DOUG ROSS: Porter County Council, commissioners need to talk

2013-01-09T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: Porter County Council, commissioners need to talkBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

This being the start of a new year, Porter County officials have a chance to start off on the right foot, right a few past wrongs, and set a good example for other counties.

I suggest the County Council and commissioners spend the day together, meeting with appointees and mapping out a future for the county.

Some might call this a retreat, but I'm hoping it would be more of an advance.

There are a lot of hard feelings to soothe.

Last year, Councilman Jim Biggs and Commissioner John Evans faced off in a bitter primary contest. Biggs, a former commissioner, wanted his old job back.

The campaign went negative fast, and I'm told the hard feelings haven't been erased yet. This rivalry has staying power. That's not good.

The power struggle between the council and commissioners hasn't been limited to Biggs and Evans, either. It has been a battle of frustration, with each side wanting a bit of the powers normally retained by the other.

This joint meeting would be a good chance for the commissioners and council to come to an agreement over major issues like how to ease crowding at the Porter County Jail, how to handle requests for funding from the hospital proceeds, how to handle animal control and other major issues facing the county.

It's important to get the commissioners and council back in sync with each other.

Get back in sync with the appointees, too.

First among the appointees the council and commissioners ought to hear from should be Jeff Good, the county's appointee to the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. If you remember Porter County's recent political history, you'll know why.

When the Porter County Council filed a lawsuit to try to get out of the RDA, among the tensions cited was poor communication between the RDA appointee and the county.

I know the RDA appointee wants to meet with the council. Now the ball is in the council's court. A joint meeting with the commissioners is the right way to handle this.

Hear from the county's appointee to the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District as well. Get a better sense of what's happening not just for current South Shore passenger train operations but also for the prospect of extending commuter rail service in Lake and Porter counties.

Meet with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission delegation, too. Discuss Porter County's environmental, land use and transportation wants and needs to make sure they are well represented.

Communication problems have abounded in Porter County in the past. Now it's time to work on solutions. Annual joint meetings would be a good way to start.

This is true not just in Porter County, but elsewhere as well.

Elected officials, are you listening?

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/DougRossNWI and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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