MARC CHASE: Cold freezes hearts, logic of snowplow naysayers

2014-01-28T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Cold freezes hearts, logic of snowplow naysayersMarc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
January 28, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Plenty of government blunders in the region deserve bitter-cold responses.

So when public officials do the right thing, shouldn't it provide a little warm comfort? Apparently not in all corners of Northwest Indiana -- a revelation brought to us by some embittered members of the Portage City Council.

In Lake County, elected officials on the take regularly put a nasty taste in our figurative mouths.

But what about when a Porter County mayor realizes a need in a neighboring Lake County city, decides he has the ability to help without putting his own constituents in the hole, and then acts accordingly?

Portage Mayor James Snyder recently did just that, and the negative response he received from much of his City Council was about as inappropriate as the owner of a snowblower ignoring the snow-packed driveway of the elderly widow next door.

When snows last week had much of northern Lake County locked in a polar wasteland, Snyder -- a conservative Porter County Republican, for those keeping score -- took note.

Portage's roads were clean, and neighboring Gary couldn't keep up with 20 inches of snow choking out the city's transportation routes.

Some of those routes, by the way, lead to areas of commerce in Portage -- businesses where folks in Gary shop and spend money. That is, when they can get there.

Snyder knows that. He also knows ambulances, fire trucks and police cars don't move through 20 inches of snow.

So Snyder contacted Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, a Lake County Democrat for those keeping score. Snyder then ordered four of his city's snowplows to help dig out his neighbor's streets.

By Snyder's accounting, it cost Portage a whopping $642 -- not even a ripple in the city's finances.

None of these sound reasons for doing the right thing kept some Portage City Council boo-birds away, though.

Councilman Mark Oprisko, under the guise of "fiscal responsibility," questions whether the mayor had the authority — without council permission — to send city resources to aid Gary's snow removal. Democrat Oprisko has said he wants an inquiry, including to the State Board of Accounts, and possible legal action regarding the mayor's actions. Some council critics also argue there was no imminent emergency justifying Snyder's helping of a neighbor.

Most reasonable people realize the inability for emergency vehicles to traverse snowed-in roadways constitutes an emergency. I suspect Oprisko and the other council naysayers would be sounding all manners of alarm if Portage streets were rendered impassable and the city couldn't effectively respond alone.

Fortunately, many residents — who hopefully also vote — seem to see it differently. City Hall has seen a number of pledged public donations in recent days to cover the cost of the good will plowing in Gary.

They realize what Oprisko and other naysayers fail to grasp. Snyder — a conservative Republican, God forbid — did the right thing, reaching across what are often seen as irreconcilable political and geographical boundaries.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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