Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Independent Jennifer Fisher challenges incumbent Emerson DeLaney in Chesterton Town Council race

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By KEVIN NEVERS

In the municipal election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Republican Chesterton Town Council Member Emerson DeLaney will defend his 5th District seat against a challenge from Independent Jennifer Fisher. The Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to a candidate questionnaire.

The Tribune reserved the right to edit for length.

(1) For DeLaney: Age, occupation, number of terms on the Town Council. 64. Semi-retired, partner with Tremont Properties and Consulting LLC. In my third term.

For Fisher: Age, occupation. 39. Attorney.

(2) For DeLaney: Why are you running for re-election? (75 words) To continue serving the people of Chesterton and to continue building on the success of the past Town Councils in promoting economic development, improving and maintaining quality of life/place, and to keep Chesterton a great and safe place to live and raise a family.

For Fisher: Why are you running for election to the Chesterton Town Council? (75 words). I am running for election because I want the opportunity to serve and better my community. Chesterton is my family’s home. I genuinely care about the people who live and work here. I have spent a great deal of time speaking with constituents and town employees. I have truly listened to their concerns. They have expressed a great desire for honesty, integrity, accountability, and change in local politics. I want to give them that change.

(3) For DeLaney: What specific skill sets have you brought to the Town Council? (75 words) I have served on a state board appointed by the governor, served on the Chesterton Board of Zoning appeals, Plan Commission, Redevelopment Commission, and the Chesterton Town Council along with being the liaison to the Police and Fire departments. The time served on the above mentioned along with residing here for 21 years, has given me the knowledge to help make educated decisions, and help solve problems pertaining to our town.

For Fisher: What specific skill sets would you bring to the Town Council? (75 words) As a practicing attorney, I am well equipped to serve the Town of Chesterton in a variety of capacities. I have spent many years studying state and federal law, honestly representing and advocating for the interests of others, analyzing complex legal matters, working with municipalities, assessing liability, negotiating and writing contracts, resolving disputes, and bringing about just, ethical, and optimal outcomes for my clients. It’s time to put my skills to work for Chesterton.

(4) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and explain why you consider yourself to be the stronger candidate (100 words).

DeLaney: Although I do not know my opponent, I applaud any citizen who desires to become involved in town government. All of which translates into substantial experience and my willingness to put in countless hours into public service. In order to be effective as a council person, one must be able to dedicate 15-20 hours per week. Town government can’t wait until someone gets home from work. Being semi-retired allows me the opportunity to meet with residents and the business community. I have also been endorsed by Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council.

Fisher: As explained above, I have a valuable skill set that differentiates me from Mr. DeLaney. Constituents, myself included, have witnessed a great deal of discord between Mr. DeLaney, who serves as the council’s liaison to Chesterton’s Police and Fire departments, and our police and firefighters during this term. This has culminated in a federal lawsuit now pending against the town alleging violation of federal labor laws, breach of contract, and fraudulent misrepresentations made by Mr. DeLaney during contract negotiations with our firefighters. Constituents want honest answers, better representation, and transparency. I can and will do better in delivering this.

(5) What are the key issues in this race? (150 words)

DeLaney: The key issues have not changed. We are a growing community and have experienced exponential growth in residential and business. We must continue to monitor the progress while balancing the quality of life. We must continue to enhance the Downtown business district, analyze proposed new developments, and approve those that are believed to be in the best interest of Chesterton. As available land within our boundaries becomes scarce, we must continue to work with the developers, town staff, and boards for the betterment of the community. Our town employees are our greatest resource, and we owe it to them to make sure they are compensated in a manner which reflects the excellent service they provide to our residents. We must continue on our track record of success in serving the best interests of everyone in Chesterton, and not bow down to special interest groups.

Fisher: Key issues in this race are integrity, accountability, and change. Constituents, myself included, want transparent leadership. We want to know when and how the town first learned that firefighters were not paid required overtime. What efforts were made by the council to resolve the dispute before the firefighters filed suit? Why were back-overtime payments issued without an agreement concerning the amount owed, without obtaining a settlement agreement resolving the lawsuit, and without protecting the town from unnecessary costs of litigation? How much will taxpayers pay for this lawsuit? There is no accountability in leadership unless hard questions are asked and answered. I am prepared to ask and deliver honest answers. Constituents also want proactive change. They want to see economic growth by attracting new businesses and development, and collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce to bring events and activities to the community. I’m committed to bring the desired change.

(6) For DeLaney: You are a sitting member of the Redevelopment Commission. Explain tax increment financing and discuss your preferences for the expenditure of TIF moneys (125 words). Tax increment financing or TIF works by capturing the increased assessed value on non-residential properties in areas designated as a TIF District. So instead of the increased assessed value going out of town, it remains here to be spent on projects in and directly serving the TIF District. The Redevelopment Commission has done a good job identifying many projects that were in need of these funds such as: CFON, the Chesterton Fiber Optic Network serving business, residents and the Duneland School Corporation; the South Calumet Business District; Gateway Boulevard improvement project; the Porter Avenue culvert replacement; and numerous road paving projects. I support improvements such as these and will continue to work on the commission to identify similar TIF funded projects.

For Fisher: If elected to the Town Council, you could be appointed to the Redevelopment Commission. Explain tax increment financing and discuss your preferences for the expenditure of TIF moneys (125 words). Tax increment financing (“TIF”) is a mechanism used to finance the development of infrastructure (roads, utilities, etc.), for the purpose of facilitating economic development in areas that would remain undeveloped without the creation of infrastructure, through the sale of bonds. The bonds are paid back with tax revenue generated from the realization of prospective development. While TIF defers tax increases to bond holders, it also shifts the benefit of tax revenue generated by new development to bond holders, as opposed to the community, for payment of infrastructure that an incoming developer would normally incur. Therefore, my primary concern is that all TIF expenditures are responsibly made to promote suitable development in a way that does not create a loss of revenue for the town.

(7) Over the past year, residents of Westchester South, Stone Meadows, Abercrombie Woods, and Rosehill Estates have expressed concern about proposed planned unit developments near their neighborhoods. What in your view is the optimum mix of R-1, R-2, and R-3 housing in Chesterton? And what is your opinion of PUDs? (100 words).

DeLaney: The Town Council did listen to the residents’ concerns on proposed PUDs. I went on record to tell the property owner to work with their neighbors and come back to the council with an appropriate development that would enhance the area. We also listened to the residents in Westchester South on the parcel behind the Post Office and upheld the recommendation from the Plan Commission. PUDs are an effective planning tool if used properly. I would focus primarily on R-1 moving forward because we already have a mix of affordable and quality R-2 and R-3.

Fisher: I have spoken with many residents who have shared their disapproval of PUDs incorporating multi-family housing units into single family home neighborhoods. They have shared concerns regarding the impact that this may have on their neighborhoods, traffic flows, and property values. In my view, the concerns of Chesterton’s residents are of primary importance and due utmost consideration. Every PUD proposal, and the optimum placement of R-1, R-2, and R-3 housing in Chesterton, requires a fact intensive, individualized assessment, that fully respects our residents’ concerns, fully preserves the enjoyment of their homes, and protects their property values.

(8) During the Town Council’s current term, Chesterton Tribune readers have expressed dissatisfaction with the empty Kmart on Indian Boundary Road; the proliferation of senior housing east of Ind. 49; and the Plan Commission’s endorsement of a re-zone which would permit the construction of a Dollar General on Broadway. What role, if any, does the Town Council have in promoting and managing economic development? (100 words)

DeLaney: Promoting and managing economic development is an important function of the Town Council. We’ve been actively working on redevelopment on the Kmart parcel and an announcement is very close. As far as what you call “proliferation” of senior housing east of 49, the medical corridor is a well-known town plan, and I am proud of the proliferation of the medical and senior care facilities. Over 600 new jobs and close to $200 million in investments have taken place in this area alone. The Dollar General location is a zoning change from Industrial to Business which should improve the location.

Fisher: The council plays a vital role in promoting and managing economic development. In speaking with constituents and business owners, they have expressed a desire for vision and leadership from the council in this area. Chesterton has long been considered a “bedroom community” and earned a reputation for being uncompromising. Constituents want this to change. They want to see new businesses come to town to fulfill their needs. They want to spend their money here as opposed to venturing to neighboring communities to do business and find recreation. With vision and good leadership, Chesterton can grow and maintain its charm.

(9) For DeLaney: Offer a cost/benefit analysis of the proposed railroad quiet zone in the Downtown. Is there, to your mind, an upper limit in funding which the town should be willing to commit to the project? Do you believe a railroad quiet zone to be the best use for this funding? (100 words) The decision to study the feasibility of a quite zone was driven by our residents and the Downtown business district. The study is being done by a world class engineering firm. When we know the estimated costs, we will look for all available funding sources, including grants, so the town can make a fiscally responsible decision. Cost is only one of the factors. At this time these are unknown factors. Safety is paramount at the crossings followed by a more enjoyable experience for those visiting and residing along the rail corridor.

Fisher: Do you support the creation of a railroad quiet zone in the Downtown? If so, is there, to your mind, an upper limit in funding which the town should be willing to commit to the project? Do you believe a railroad quiet zone to be the best use for this funding? (100 words) There are pros and cons to the development of a railroad quiet zone. On one hand, the noise associated with trains traveling through downtown Chesterton can be disruptive to event and business attendees. On the other hand, the costs associated with the project are estimated near $2 million dollars. In light of the recent budgeting errors, costing Chesterton approximately $900,000, now pending federal lawsuit against the town, and complaints regarding increasing health insurance costs, I believe a well-informed cost-benefit analysis is required to determine whether funds are available and best spent on this project at this time.

(10) For DeLaney: At a Town Council meeting on Sept. 9 you told residents of Pearson Road--some of whom lived in their homes years before the Brassie Golf Course was built--that the town has no jurisdiction to protect them from errant golf balls because the driving range is located in unincorporated Liberty Township. Inasmuch as property and perhaps lives are being threatened by users of a business addressed in and licensed by the Town of Chesterton, explain why you consider your response to be adequate (75 words). The situation for those residents is unfortunate. Because the driving range is located outside of town limits it would be inappropriate and possibly illegal for us to sanction them. Their club house is in the town limits but we don’t “license” them. They have a business registration. We listened to the residents and sent the Brassie a letter with a follow up call. We are not deterred from finding a solution.

For Fisher: Since filing for the 5th District seat, in July, you have not--to the Chesterton Tribune’s knowledge--attended any meetings of the Town Council. Why haven’t you? How have you been familiarizing yourself with the issues on the ground as well as with the ways and means of municipal governance? (75 words) I attended many Town Council meetings prior to filing. In addition, I have had campaign representatives in attendance at nearly all meetings since filing. I am familiar and work with municipal governance in a variety of capacities on a regular basis. Therefore, I have immersed myself in meetings with residents and town employees to best acquaint myself with the issues on the ground that are most important to the people that I hope to represent.

(11) For DeLaney: What specific issue do you believe the Town Council could have done a better job of addressing? (75 words) I am proud of the council’s successes, which include finding sustainable funding for employee raises and key economic development projects such as Urschel Laboratories. In reflection, our employees’ compensation should have been acted on sooner. They deserve a fair and livable wage and we were able to provide those raises by thinking outside of the box. As with economic development, I wish it would move faster but it is often outside of the town’s control.

For Fisher: What specific issue do you believe the Town Council has done a good job of addressing? (75 words) I was pleased to see the council award town employees a much deserved raise during this term. Constituents have made it known that they want to fairly compensate the people that serve and protect our community, by offering wages that are comparable to neighboring communities, in order to attract and retain quality employees. I look forward to addressing the additional issues concerning increasing health insurance costs and vacation time asserted by our police and firefighters.

 

 

Posted 10/10/2019

 
 
 
 

 

 

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