RICH JAMES: If you can visit this, thank a Democrat

2013-06-19T00:00:00Z 2013-06-19T00:00:25Z RICH JAMES: If you can visit this, thank a DemocratBy Rich James nwitimes.com
June 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

If you use the facilities at the new Schererville Community Center, you might want to thank a Democrat.

After years of wrangling between the Republican and Democratic members of the Town Council, the community center was dedicated June 8.

Judging by the turnout of some 800 Schererville residents, it appears the community has pretty much embraced the new facility.

But, don’t give any of the credit to Republican Councilmen Jerry Tippy and Kevin Connelly or former Councilman Hal Slager, who left the council in late 2012 to become a state representative.

They didn’t show up for the dedication. They knew about the ceremony but apparently elected not to take part. Maybe they were golfing or cleaning the garage.

Talk about the community center — which will double as headquarters for the town parks department — began several years ago when U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, secured a $500,000 grant to help build the facility.

But the Republicans, who controlled the Town Council from 2007 through 2011, would have nothing to do with building a community center.

The Republicans went so far as to say the town ought to give the money back to Visclosky.

Something tells me that if the money had been sent back to the feds, it would have been the last dime Visclosky ever sent to Schererville.

Maybe the Republican councilmen would have accepted the money had the congressman been a Republican. Just speculation, mind you.

In January 2012, Democrats gained control of the Town Council. One of the first things they did was to get moving on the community center, knowing the town would have lost the $500,000 if it hadn’t been used by the end of 2012.

Some 18 months later, Schererville dedicated a community center. And, yes, Visclosky took part in the ceremony, along with Democratic Councilmen Tom Schmitt, Mike Troxell and Rob Guetzloff.

One of the nicest things about the dedication is that the $2.3 million facility is paid for. With the grant from Visclosky and $1.8 million from a tax increment financing district, there was no need to sell a bond to pay for the facility. That’s virtually unheard of in government today.

Explaining the Republican boycott is simple. They will try to win back control of the council by saying the community center was reckless spending.

That’s the same tactic Republicans used with the construction of the bathroom at Redar Park.

Republicans accused Democrats of building a $750,000 bathroom, while in actuality it was $250,000. The other $500,000 was spent on other improvements.

The bottom line, I guess, is that if Republicans don’t get their way, they just stay home.

Maybe the voters ought to make that a permanent arrangement.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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