WILLIAM NANGLE: McDermott shouldn't try to shoot down air show

2013-12-08T00:00:00Z WILLIAM NANGLE: McDermott shouldn't try to shoot down air showBy William Nangle nwitimes.com
December 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Well, shut my mouth.

Maybe that’s the advice to be given to Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. He has been spouting loud and long in opposition to the regional air show moving from Gary to the Fair Oaks Farm south in Newton County.

His argument is that locally collected tax money should be spent only in Lake County.

So much for his vision for Northwest Indiana. Like some in neighboring Porter County, he has tunnel vision, and it ends at the county line.

Some facts are necessary. The air show was not held in 2012.

Gary, already struggling to meet its financial needs, wisely decided it could no longer afford extra pay for police and emergency services necessary at the show.

Midway Airport’s protective zone precludes the air show from being staged along the lakeshore in Hammond and Whiting.

And it’s not property taxes paid by local residents at issue. The tax is on those who visit here, using hotels and motels.

In spite of all this, McDermott is shooting from the lip and attacking the decision to move the show to Newton County. He argues the local economy will suffer.

His aim is the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, sponsor of the air show.

The fact is that no contract has been signed with Fair Oaks to host the show. But it should be.

Fair Oaks, perhaps the nation’s premier agritourism destination, draws somewhere around half a million visitors each year. They spend millions on gas, lodging and food as they visit the region. A good part of that is in Lake County.

It’s also true that Fair Oaks has sufficient land to host the show. It has the largest single patch of land east of the Mississippi River, some 30,000 plus acres.

It milks more than 30,000 cows per day, sending thousands of gallons of milk on its way to Midwest processors. Its future plans include building a hotel. It recently added pigs as a part of its exhibit

In other words, it hosts visitors to see agribusiness up close. It is especially a good experience for the young.

With the centralized location – not like the Gary show with limited and disjointed access – the show can be more. For instance, a midway with vendors and perhaps rides is likely to be offered.

The possibilities are great. So it is a time to think big, to think regional and stop the noise of unfounded opposition.

Finally, let me say McDermott is a top-notch mayor. He has done much for his city. That is a fact. But he is off base with his criticism of moving the air show.

He likely will charge me and The Times with being biased against him, something he has also proclaimed loudly of late.

Well, shut my mouth. I won’t respond to such a ridiculous charge.

No matter whether it’s the mayor or someone else, we will continue to support this as one region, not a home to isolated counties and municipalities.

Let the air show begin over the wide open spaces in Newton County.

William Nangle is executive editor of The Times. He can be reached at The Times, 601 45th St., Munster, IN 46321 or at bill.nangle@nwi.com.

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