RICH JAMES: Referendum for Illiana would be bad idea

2013-11-17T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Referendum for Illiana would be bad ideaBy Rich James nwitimes.com
November 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Lake County Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, owns one of the 52 votes that will decide whether there will be an Illiana Expressway.

As of last week, she didn’t know what she was going to do.

And she really was hoping she could pass the buck.

“I wish the state would put questions like the Illiana or South Shore (commuter rail) expansion on a referendum so the people could voice their opinion,” Cid said at a County Council meeting.

Bad idea.

A referendum does two things, neither of which is particularly good.

It protects the elected official from having to vote on a burning issue.

And the result of a referendum often comes down to who can raise the most money.

We elected folks like Cid to become informed and make decisions for us on things like the Illiana and the South Shore Railroad. We didn’t elect them to vote just on the easy issues.

I suspect the proposed Illiana would survive a referendum in Lake County.

While the opponents are vocal, they are a minority. And there are too many folks in the county who would find it difficult to vote against job creation, a better transportation system and added tax base.

Additionally, anyone who has been a victim of gridlock on the Borman Expressway (I-80/94), surely would vote for an alternate route.

While I have a disdain for referendums in general, I particularly dislike the use of a referendum when it comes to allowing school districts to raise additional money for either the general fund or construction.

Schools in communities where residents have higher median incomes generally see referendums approved.

Schools in rural, agricultural areas generally see referendums defeated.

And schools in communities with lower median incomes generally see referendums defeated.

The same can be said of a community with an aging population. Too often those without children in school don’t relish the idea of financing the schools even though they once had kids in the school district.

While money doesn’t necessarily make a school system great, it doesn’t hurt.

And while a lack of money doesn’t necessarily make a school system bad, it clearly can have a negative impact.

In general, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Just as we elected people like Cid to make tough decisions, we elected school board members to do the same in terms of raising more education dollars.

A referendum on the Illiana? No. That’s what we elected the 52 representatives to the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to do.

But I do favor a referendum when it comes to changing the state Constitution. It is too precious a document to allow a political party that has run amok to change. Yeah, like the proposed same-sex marriage ban.

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.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Times

Featured Businesses

Submit a Letter to Editor

We welcome letters from readers on any issue of public interest, and make every effort to publish as many as we can and in a timely manner. The Times will publish only one letter a month from a writer, and be sure to include your name, address and a telephone number for verification. Letters should be 150 words or less. They will be edited.

Letters may be submitted:
  • Via our submission form.
  • Via e-mail.
  • Via fax: (219) 933-3249 or (219) 465-7298
  • Via mail or by hand to our offices:
    • 601 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321
    • 2080 N. Main St., Crown Point, IN 46307
    • 1111 Glendale Blvd., Valparaiso, IN 46383
    • 3410 Delta Dr., Portage, IN 46368
    • Please mark envelopes with "Attn: Letters"

Questions?

Email Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross or call (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357

Poll

Loading…

Do you expect the former Sheraton Hotel in Gary to be demolished by the end of the year?

View Results

National Video