If your finances were as meager as, say, a newspaper reporter's, a random offer out of the blue of $50,000 in free money would be awfully tempting, wouldn't it?
But what if there was a catch? What if to spend those funds you first had to come up with another $200,000 of your own cash — from savings or from borrowing — and then spend all the money on an earmarked purpose, say, a new house in south Lake County? And if you don't make a decision by, say, next week, you lose the $50,000.
Would you grab the free money and come up with a way to borrow an amount four times greater than the gift? Or would you exercise willpower, realizing you ought not sap your savings or borrow money to come up with the difference?
There would be more things to consider beyond the free money. Could you afford the taxes, closing costs, ongoing maintenance expenses and insurance of this new house?
The town of Schererville recently was faced with a similar scenario, only we're talking about a $500,000 federal HUD grant — with the need to come up with another $2 million in town money — to build the new community center.
The town eventually went forward, dipping into a local tax fund for the $2 million portion and ultimately building what, by all accounts, is a beautiful facility. And now a minority of council members who opposed the community center are taking some heat when all they really did was voice concerns about the wisdom of such expenses and attempt to exercise some fiscal willpower.
The Schererville Town Council's Democratic majority couldn't leave the $500,000 sitting on the table, and that's water over the dam. The structure is now built, and I truly wish them well.
But it's pretty hard to find fault with the council's Republican minority — Councilmen Jerry Tippy and Kevin Connelly — for not showing up to the grip-and-grin ribbon-cutting for the new facility last month.
In a letter to his constituents this week, Tippy stuck to his guns, questioning the fiscal timing and propriety of taking $2 million from a fund that was supposed to be for economic development purposes along Kennedy Avenue.
Tippy and the others took a hammering from some facility supporters for having the audacity to stay away from the grand opening festivities. According to Tippy, they did so because they aren't hypocrites. They didn't want to pose for good-will photos outside of a new municipal facility the construction of which they opposed.
If the Republican minority in this case is guilty of anything, it was exercising willpower and sticking to their values.
Whether you agree with them or not, it wouldn't hurt to respect that kind of steady hand in local government. It seems we could use a bit more of it in this tax, borrow and spend county.