The latest: AngryWhiteBoy says that Jon Costas is for "BIG government" because, according to the intro on Jon's wikipedia entry, he annexed nearby subdivisions. Wikipedia, that's the extent of his research. No, no consideration of facts like the developers' having requested most of those annexations so that they could hook-up to city water. And AngryWhiteBoy throws in a picture of C. M. Burns for good measure. I'm not sure how attacks like this, so methodically researched and well-thought-out as it was, benefit Greg Zoeller.
Let's set the record straight on Costas and small, efficient government:
1) The City of Valparaiso employs fewer people than it did when Jon Costas became Mayor, even though the city grew 25%. (Last I heard this quoted was a year ago; I have no reason to believe it's not true today.) There has been no major outsourcing of any operating functions that would affect this number. (As is typical, capital projects are bid out.) The surest path to big government is to hire a lot of people. Costas did the opposite by combining departments and finding ways to do more with less.
UPDATE: Importantly, there have been no layoffs in city government. Costas did change a number of department heads, reorganized city departments to be more efficient, and didn't fill certain vacancies created by attrition. And morale at City Hall, by most accounts, has improved substantially under Costas.
2) Costas has supported the consolidation of government units and functions where it makes sense. At Costas's urging, the City of Valparaiso consolidated its 911 centers with Porter County's, at a savings of $200K/year.
3) Valparaiso's share of the local tax levy is lower today that it was in 2004.
4) The Costas administration has issued only one general obligation bond, which was to pay to replace the 127-year-old police station. The evidence room was a broom closet and it was not ADA-compliant. The City had good reason to fear a court would order costly renovations to make it so. Costas took the cheapest solution the architects could find, renovating an old distribution center downtown. The bond was approved in a city-wide petition drive.
5) Most of the annexations that were done were upon the request of the property developers so they could use the city's water, sewer, fire, etc. The rest were annexations of properties that were granted city services by Costas's predecessor but never annexed. This isn't big government--it's what's required in a city ringed by houses popping up in corn fields.
6) Costas has limited the City's involvement in redevelopment projects, preferring to conduct the planning, build the infrastructure (i.e. roads), and then let the private sector take over. In his 2007 State of the City:
The government’s role in redevelopment is planning and investing in infrastructure. When this is done effectively, the private sector responds by investing in new buildings and businesses. This not only creates more jobs and opportunities, it keeps our property taxes low. Thus, public investment, done well, yields multiples of private funds. Valparaiso is poised to reap the benefits of private investment in the near term.
7) The Costas administration rebated property taxes. In early 2008, the City rebated $325K of property taxes, or 7% of a typical homeowner's bill. (Costas wanted to do it sooner, but Porter County's property tax systems have been FUBAR.) I don't see how this is anything but a hallmark of small, efficient government.
I could go on...
Point is: Costas is for lean, efficient government that makes good use of taxpayer dollars.