WILLIAM NANGLE: Some want government to be an employment agency

2012-12-12T00:00:00Z WILLIAM NANGLE: Some want government to be an employment agencyBy William Nangle nwitimes.com
December 12, 2012 12:00 am  • 

It appears the idea of government existing to create jobs is alive and well in Lake County

The Interfaith Federation is the latest voice demanding more local jobs. It wants the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority to fashion its projects to assure more Hammond, East Chicago and Gary residents get jobs.

Apparently, never mind qualifications. Or perhaps never mind rewarding contracts for a level playing field of bidding. And never mind employment needs in the balance of the region.

The Interfaith group has long suffered the cause of those less fortunate. It’s been a help in many ways.

But it appears to now be a steamroller going in one direction – favored treatment for residents of the region’s urban corridor.

I agree the needs there are great, but the RDA was formed to benefit the region, not just one geographic area.

Of course, the Interfaith Federation is not alone in wanting government to create jobs.

Leaders of the Gary Fair Share Jobs Project are nipping at Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s heels, unhappy more Gary residents weren't hired for a sewer job in the Glen Ryan subdivision. This, even though the contract for the work was awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, not the city.

And Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, at the last meeting of the Lake County Solid Waste Management District Board, weighed in to support the board-backed proposal to build a trash-to-ethanol plant as a means to create local jobs.

Emboldened by his recent re-election, the county official made it clear he wants the project – if it ever gets off the ground – to favor local tradesmen.

Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to help the community. But to me it seems less than fair to tie the hands of governing boards wanting to be sure they get the best dollar deal for taxpayers by insisting the terms of contracts favor employing local people.

After all, it is the thousands living in Lake County who help pay the bills for the RDA and would ultimately pay – through tipping fees or waste disposal contracts -- the cost of a trash-to-ethanol plant. And federal taxes we pay go to fund Army Corps projects.

If it’s OK with taxpayers to use public projects as an employment agency for local people, then so be it. But the question just doesn’t seem to get before the voters.

I am as anxious as anyone to see added jobs created for local workers but not at any cost. The cost of such projects must be fair to all taxpayers.

Perhaps it’s time to put the trash-to-ethanol issue to a referendum, or to let voters throughout the region decide if favored treatment is all right for those needing jobs in a select area.

How would you vote on such a proposition? Then, again, how many think such a vote is likely to take place in a county with government often seeming to serve as an employment agency?

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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