As one of eight candidates who ran for mayor in the Republican caucus to replace former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo — I came in third place in the first round of voting — I appreciated The Times Editorial Board's exhortation, several weeks back, encouraging LaPorte to engage in a "visioning process" for the city, similar to Valparaiso.
As a native Chicagoan who fell in love with LaPorte and moved to the city 25 years ago, the vision I laid out for LaPorte in my brief campaign was simple.
But it requires a steely determination on the part of our citizenry and leadership class to execute. LaPorte needs to view itself as a quality-of-life destination to the entire Chicago metroplex.
Despite being a city of lakes, a city of spectacular historic architecture and a city with one of the most abundant amounts of parkland per capita in the state, LaPorte continues to possess an unfortunate level of untapped potential.
It has become clear the city needs the courage to invest. LaPorte needs to become a bedroom community to the small business, artistic, technological, entrepreneurial and educated classes. Its downtown can and should become a thriving retail and entertainment district. Rather than focusing on landing a big industrial manufacturer, the city needs to focus on funding critical infrastructure and quality-of-life improvements to burnish our Norman Rockwellian glow and make us attractive to newcomers.
I am very proud of the accomplishments of the current City Council and recently departed mayor in creating a long-term funding solution that will make our roads some of the best kept in the state.
Now the city needs to focus on the quality of its sidewalks, which are atrocious but can be fixed through the sale of a $10 million sidewalk bond. A walkable city is critical to public safety, quality of life and economic development
With the designation, a few years ago, of the premier Indiana and Michigan Avenues residential area as a National Register Historic District, the installation of historic streetlights in this district will increase property values, enhance the city's image, attract tourists and encourage more residential investment.
Train horns need to be silenced in the city, with one of the busiest rail corridors in the nation passing through the heart of our town, if we want to attract those who require a certain quality of life.
Increasing the amount of its downtown facade grants to 80 percent city provided, from the prior 50 percent, in the last couple years has dramatically increased participation in the program, with notable improvements in the appearance of downtown buildings.
LaPorte has a tremendous built and natural environment. More work needs to be done, but I will continue to sell the citizens of my community on the "invest to grow" concept.
While LaPorte will certainly pride itself on being a place where property taxes are low and where city-run utilities are below the average cost for our peer cities, it is important for our citizens to realize how making critical investments in our future will allow the city population to start to grow again and restore the kind of "virtuous cycle" that allowed LaPorte to become a reassuringly quaint and eminently "livable" city in the first place.