RICH JAMES: Letter to Dyer voters took liberties with truth

2014-05-25T00:00:00Z 2014-06-16T10:19:10Z RICH JAMES: Letter to Dyer voters took liberties with truthBy Rich James nwitimes.com
May 25, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Speaking of Dyer fosters images of freckle-faced kids in Little League uniforms, soccer moms, backyard pools and town festivals.

Mention of that town never has conjured up images of in-your-face, down-and-dirty politics.

That is until I recently read Dyer Republican Chairman Daniel Fagen’s letter to town voters a week before the primary election.

The letter urges voters to back incumbent Councilwoman Deb Astor and oppose challenger Jethroe Smith.

Fagen may have signed the letter, but you get the feeling Astor may have penned the thing.

Regardless, I don’t think anyone will mistake Astor for Pollyanna at the next town social.

The lies and deceit begin in the second paragraph that reads, “On April 14, (Redevelopment Commission Chairman) Jethroe Smith voted to ask the Town Council to raise our property taxes.”

There’s no explanation as to why he did so, largely because there isn’t one. Smith never made such a request.

Fagen then goes on to say Smith misused his Redevelopment Commission power when he “used eminent domain to force residents to sell their land under threat of an endless lawsuit ...”

It seems Fagen has sugar plum fairies dancing in his head. It didn’t happen.

For almost two decades, a bunch of parcels at U.S. 30 and Hart Street — the gateway to the Dyer — had been abandoned and empty except for one eyesore of a house. Finally the town bought that house and had clear ownership to a large piece of land. A CVS Pharmacy is set to be built there with brick walls and a Welcome to Dyer sign. The land is back on the tax rolls.

Fagen goes on to say Astor “has been fiscally responsible while taking care of town business.”

When it came to money for extension of the South Shore Railroad to Dyer, Astor was the most irresponsible on the Town Council.

Astor was the leading voice against giving any money toward the expansion of the South Shore.

Because the extension will bring millions in development dollars to Northwest Indiana — and in particular Dyer — Astor’s position was one of the most irresponsible things I have seen in government.

The real kicker to me is Fagen essentially saying Smith doesn’t bleed Republican red.

Smith has been known to say, “Know what D's and R's are to me? Dyer Residents.”

As it should be, Smith cares more about local government — and what’s best for Dyer — than partisan politics.

Despite Fagen’s praise for Astor for being a good Republican, she was a Democrat who flipped to the Republican Party after a spat with the Democratic chairman. Oh, such loyalty.

The sad part of all this is that with the help of Fagen’s letter, Astor defeated Smith.

It’s kind of like serving pie made from worm-infested apples at the town bake sale.

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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