(note from author - will be out of town for a week - but will reply to comments upon return)
Jasper County Circuit Court Judge John Potter ruled that Porter County has no legal right to determine its membership, or lack thereof, in the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. Should Porter County accept the loss or forge ahead with an appeal?
There's little choice when you consider what's happened here. The RDA's merits aren't the big issue. So for a moment, forget the South Shore is not coming, and forget Lake County officials have made real Gary/Chicago International Airport expansion little more than a pipe dream. Forget Gary is more than $6 million behind in payments, yet the RDA has promised them $60 million for their lakefront and airport. Yes, Gary, the same city that has received close to half a billion dollars in various casino revenues yet has tax rates that dwarf Porter County's.
We must ignore the RDA's unanimous decision to support the RTA, an appointed body that would have had the authority to tax. Also ignore the RDA's choice to spend $130,000 (an amount less than an appeal would cost) persuading our citizens to support a tax for the South Shore extensions. And finally, we must overlook legislation that provided non-RDA counties with $15 million more in Major Moves money than Porter County received.
Difficult as it might be, those facts need to be put aside. Our single greatest concern should be that Judge Potter's ruling allows the state to single out Porter County. LaPorte County had the option of joining the RDA, Porter County does not. It is fundamentally wrong to single any county out. What if the federal government did likewise? What if only Indiana was forced to pay a tax overseen in large part by appointees of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich? Further, who's to say the state won't soon demand we send even more money to Lake County via the RDA? According to this ruling, it's not up to Porter County.
The only decision Porter County has to make is where will we get the money. Local officials all over Indiana rage over unfunded mandates legislated by the state. Although extremely frustrating, the usual unfunded mandates are not the same as what has happened here. They are statewide and no county is singled out.
Whether you're cheering me on for writing this or thinking about wringing my neck, Porter County has been singled out. It's unacceptable and the ramifications of allowing such a ruling to stand are alarming at best. The only real option is an appeal.