From the unified fronts of top local, state and federal leaders on key Region economic development initiatives to citizens' support for quality schools, Northwest Indiana has plenty to be thankful for.
As families gather around the dinner table today to celebrate Thanksgiving, we highlight multiple things for which our entire Region should be thankful.
Unity on the rails
The local, state and federal support for expanding Northwest Indiana commuter rail as a means for building our economy has meant unprecedented unity in a historically divided Region.
The project is now under consideration for federal funding, and so many important, bipartisan voices spoke as one to get it to this point.
Plans of expanding the existing South Shore rail line from Hammond to Dyer and double-tracking to speed commutes between Gary and Michigan City have united our Region in ways not before seen.
Regardless of what happens on the federal funding side, we have a blue print of unity among often contentious political parties, mayors, city and town councils and the Indiana governor and congressional delegates.
We all should be thankful for that.
Many of our Region schools continue to give us plenty for which to be thankful.
In May, 28 schools in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties made the list of the Indiana Department of Education's Four Star Schools.
It takes an A on the state's A-F accountability system, excellent ISTEP-Plus standardized test scores and high graduation rates to make the list.
Scores of our Region schools continued to set that high bar in 2017, and taxpayers in some jurisdictions took note.
Most recently, Hobart and Hammond voters both approved referendums to boost property taxes to support education and infrastructure for those public school districts.
We can be thankful we live in a Region where education is valued.
Examples of good government were many in the Region this year.
Porter County commissioners continue adopting common sense approaches to updating government buildings and services without breaking the bank or raising taxes. Responsible use of interest from the former Porter County hospital sale proceeds has paved the way.
New Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. immediately went to work in ways that help restore public trust after former Sheriff John Buncich was ousted by a felony bribery conviction.
Martinez and his department have a ways to go, but he's already attacked the runaway jail overtime issue, working with the Lake County Council to end unauthorized labor practices that Buncich had put in place.
Martinez also fired an unqualified jail warden who also had a criminal conviction related to the former warden's time as a county police officer.
Meanwhile, North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan attacked a pressing social problem by spearheading the "No More Secrets" campaign in 2017. The program helped show victims of child abuse, including sexual abuse, that they need not languish in silence.
On the state level, Indiana House Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, led the charge to a long-term road funding formula — something that eluded our state for decades. It took courage to back the needed, but unpopular, tax increases to ensure our state's most important infrastructure — and the state itself — have viable futures.
We all should be thankful for these and other bountiful examples of good leadership.