RICH JAMES: Remove fences, end tourism turf war

2013-05-05T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Remove fences, end tourism turf warRich James nwitimes.com
May 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

There are no walls, no checkpoints and no border guards asking for residency cards when you pass from Lake County into Porter County. The same can be said when you slip from Porter County into LaPorte County.

Nope, you can drive right through, no questions asked. No one wants to know where you’ve been or where you are going.

Yep, the issue of tourism turf has reared its head again. It’s time to put this monster to rest.

The three Northwest Indiana tourism chiefs — Speros Batistatos in Lake County, Lorelei Weimer in Porter County and Jack Arnett in LaPorte County — are all good people.

They just aren’t all needed.

Batistatos and Weimer scratched each other off their Christmas lists years ago. Now it appears Arnett and Batistatos are about to have at it.

Arnett has spotted Speros roaming about in LaPorte County. He doesn’t like it and might go to court to see that Batistatos is confined to Lake County. Maybe he’s looking to put up one of those invisible fences that keep pets in their own yards.

Arnett said that with Speros and company meddling in LaPorte County, people don’t know who to contact to schedule and promote local events.

“It’s gotten to the point now that it’s very confusing,” Arnett said.

Arnett added he believes current law doesn’t allow “any of us in the industry to go outside the county.” Bam, there’s that invisible fence, again.

Bring it on, Batistatos said about a legal fight.

Batistatos said tourism is a regional thing and that people participating in a particular event want to know what else is available nearby.

Batistatos said he was met with resistance when he tried to place brochures promoting Lake County activities in Michigan City hotels.

But Arnett argues the regional name of Speros’ organization — the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority — doesn’t give him permission to cross the county line.

Arnett heads the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission that includes seven counties along the Toll Road. Lake County isn’t included.

Apparently regionalism can be OK when it comes to the tourism industry, as long as Lake County and Batistatos aren’t involved.

“We should all be in the same boat, rowing in the same direction,” Batistatos said. Unfortunately, Weimer and Arnett don’t seem to have both oars in the water.

Batistatos is right. Northwest Indiana doesn’t need three tourism bureaus. It is a waste of money and works against the goal of uniting the region for the common good.

If there is something in state law that talks about walls between counties, it needs to be torn down. Taking this fight to court borders on insanity.

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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