RICH JAMES: Visclosky lights fuse under local match

2013-09-29T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Visclosky lights fuse under local matchBy Rich James
September 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When it comes to the betterment of Northwest Indiana, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky is the best.

His efforts have solved flooding problems, reclaimed the Lake Michigan shoreline and increased police protection, to name a few.

Through no fault of his own, there’s one thing he has been unsuccessful in doing.

And now he is getting angry. You gotta love it.

Visclosky has run out of patience when it comes to local approval and funding for South Shore commuter rail expansions to Lowell and Valparaiso.

At the annual One Region luncheon last week, Visclosky laid it on the line.

And he did something he never has done. He put NWI’s feet to the fire and set a deadline.

About a month ago, Visclosky said the time for talk about the need for expanded commuter rail is over.

He was even more emphatic last week. “We will resolve the funding issue by March 31, 2014, and we will build a bus and train system and bring our children home,” Visclosky told 650 political, business and civic leaders.

The region has talked to death the benefits of additional commuter rail – a myriad of economic development initiatives including the attraction of high-tech industries that will keep the area’s best and brightest sons and daughters at home rather than jumping to Atlanta, California’s Silicon Valley or even Chicago’s western suburbs.

Imagine jumping on a train in Lowell or St. John rather than driving north to catch one in East Chicago or Hammond.

Visclosky told the One Region folks that the area’s population is getting older and shrinking. It also is getting a little less wise.

Except for the usual south county isolationists, support for expanded train service is strong.

The beauty of Visclosky representing the region is that he sits high on the Appropriations Committee where the checks are written.

Visclosky is challenging local legislators to come up with match money – whether it’s local or state or a combination.

That means it is up to our state legislators and officials back home to decide on a source for match money. That’s not easy, but good elected officials make the tough decisions.

Legislators should head to Indy in January with a plan. That will involve a tax as well as other resources. State funding also is a must.

Local elected officials can’t push it all on to the legislators. No, the area needs a meeting of the minds this fall – a Commuter Convention if you will.

Because he set the deadline, Visclosky, perhaps, ought to call the convention.

And if the region fails, it got me to thinking about hell having no fury like a woman scorned.

I wonder if you can say the same about a congressman.

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

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

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