In the municipal
election Tuesday, Nov. 5, voters in Porter will choose between Republican
Jim Burge and Democrat David Phillips for the 4th Ward Town Council seat.
The Chesterton Tribune invited both to participate in a candidate
questionnaire. The Tribune reserved the right to edit responses for
1) Age, occupation.
Vice-president Marketing & New Business Development, CET Fire Pump
Information Techn-ology Systems Administrator at Porter-Starke Services,
last 16 years
2) For Burge: As
permitted in State law, you were appointed by your local political party
chairman to fill a ballot vacancy after the primary. Why are you seeking
election to the Town Council, and why did you enter the race late in the
game? (100 words)
I’ve lived in
Porter County my whole life. Porter is my adopted home, and I have built a
house here and my wife’s family has been rooted here for generations. I want
to do my part to help my town. During the primary election there were no
contested races. Mid-summer, the deadline for the two major parties was fast
approaching and again there were no candidates to offer the people of Porter
a choice. I felt it wasn’t right to have an entire election cycle go by with
no choices, no influx of fresh ideas that come from new perspectives. I
tossed my hat into the ring to give people a voice. Additionally, I served
four years as your Porter County Councilman At-Large.
For Phillips: Why
are you seeking election to the Town Council? (75 words)
I’m seeking office
to bring people together. With social media, we’re constantly barraged with
unending messages that highlight our differences. We all know family and
friends that have, at the very least, distanced themselves from their own
family and friends. I want to return focus to what we all share and have in
common. This is OUR town. Let’s not blame past mistakes on others but accept
our own shared responsibility for today and tomorrow.
3) What specific
skill sets would you bring to the Town Council? (100 words)
Burge: I have a
natural ability to envision a goal, apply strategic planning, tactical
implementation skills, and tenacity to connect all the dots and make things
happen on time and under budget. Additionally, I have experience on the
Porter County Council. This included serving on the Planning Commission,
Youth Service Bureau, VP of the Council, and on the bi-partisan subcommittee
to oversee the investment of more than $100 million in proceeds from the
sale of Porter Memorial Hospital. This led to millions of dollars in
interest to supplement county government and helped to keep property taxes
as low as possible.
Ability to Listen: It’s easy to list here all my “accomplishments” -- Retail
store manager 20 years, Systems admin at Porter-Starke since 2003, and more.
But the truth is that the most necessary skill for any public official is
"Are they listening to their constituents? Can they bring people together?”
And not so much "Here's what I'm going to do for/to you.” What are the
residents’ concerns? What is the Citizens’ Agenda? Listening for those
answers is a skill I have. As a town council member, I would consider my
term as Public Service.
yourself from your opponent and indicate why in particular you believe
yourself to be the better candidate. (100 words)
Burge: As a
former county councilman, I have experience budgeting, balancing the needs
of multiple departments with limited resources. As a former subdivision POA
president and board member, I have worked through issues in neighborhoods.
My occupation has blessed me with opportunities to bring people together to
work together for the common good and lead organizations and help them grow
and prosper. These skills make me uniquely qualified to best serve the
residents of Porter, Indiana.
have lived in Northwest Indiana my whole life. Lived in Porter since
September 2005. I feel a deep gratitude for living in Porter. Being right in
the middle of the Indiana Dunes National Park system has given me a great
appreciation for the uniqueness this area holds. My passion for preserving
this area for my children and grandchildren keeps me grateful.
My measuring stick
for making decisions for the town and for measuring the results of those
decisions are the same: Who is helped or hurt by these decisions both today
and in the future. It’s about the people.
5) What are the key
issues in this race? (125 words)
family-oriented community events, sports leagues etc. to enhance our sense
of community while supporting the festivals we already have.
--Expand and link
the entire town via bike/pedestrian trails so individuals and families can
explore our town and surrounding areas safely.
noise in our neighborhoods by working with state legislators to explore
feasibility of erecting sound mitigating walls along the I-94 corridor.
facilitate/coordinate the efforts of our churches and civic organizations to
help those who are most in need.
--Get more people
involved Ð which is why I knocked on more than 1,295 doors in Porter.
talking with many residents of the Town here are a few things that many have
mentioned to me.
making sure the low areas --ditches etc. are cleared and the water kept
--Streets -- making
sure all the less traveled/dead end roads get attention where needed.
--Access to the
beach -- making sure residents can get to their homes. Especially in the
summer when the traffic really increases. I have noticed more traffic there
since the renaming of the National Lakeshore to National Park. Kudos to the
Porter Police for doing a great job with a tough situation.
6) Attracting and
retaining businesses and new development seems to be a struggle across
Duneland. The Town Council recently passed some changes to Town Code
intended to make it easier for new home buyers to build in Porter. Do you
think Porter should have a more even mix of residential and commercial
development? What other measures, if any, do you think the Town could take
to be more friendly to small businesses and larger commercial development?
is a community of neighborhoods. I know because I walked every street
knocking on doors. Each area is unique. Most people like the quiet nature of
their corner of the world and don’t want development that would disrupt
that, nor disrupt the fragile ecosystem of our dunes environment. That said,
we need to help support the businesses that are here, and I would want to
have a round table discussion to discover what we can do for them. Highway
20 holds promise for economic development but needs focus in planning
improvements. We have a great economic opportunity with the new National
Park designation. We could sit down with Park officials and the Tourism
bureau to forge ideas to create lasting positive solutions to take advantage
of the designation. I feel we also need to engage with surrounding
municipalities to help improve all of NWI via the Regional Development
know the use of TIFs have been very popular in many communities to help
offset developer’s infrastructure costs, but I suggest we use caution when
spending our tax money to help subsidize these endeavors. We really need to
measure the pros and cons before TIFs are used in this way. I will only
support any new TIFs if there is an appropriate reason and specific need.
Too many TIFs can have serious negative effects on the general budget and
its ability to provide basic services.
7) Last year, the
Porter Redevelopment Commission formed a Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
district at the old Johnson Inn at Porter Beach. Do you support the
formation of more Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts in Town? Explain
why or why not, and explain what you think are the wisest uses for TIF
revenue. (150 words)
are tools allowed by the state to aid local government to finance endeavors
such as infrastructure improvements, redevelopment of blighted areas, and
economic development. I’m not opposed to using TIF’s as long as the
objective justifies the means. Additionally, care must be taken to track the
funds generated by the TIF to ensure funds go toward what the TIF was
created for and also to take steps, when practical, to lessen the impact on
overlapping taxing units. For example, by paying off bonds early.
TIF district created on Porter Beach property including the old Johnson Inn
meets the criteria mentioned above. The Porter Beach area is obviously a
very unique area and should be developed and used in a way that supports the
local communities and surrounding area's needs while still preserving the
natural beauty. We don't want a situation like the State Park -- where the
needs/wants of a very few override the reasonable concerns of most. Using
the TIF money to make the needed infrastructure changes/upgrades in the
Porter Beach area serves all the residents of Porter. When TIFs are used,
the increased revenue gained by the increased properties value do NOT get
spent on Police, Fire and Public Works as they would without the TIF, so we
need to be necessarily cautious when deciding on their use.
8) The Town Council
recently voted to invest in rehabbing Porter Cove Park after years of
resident complaints about its condition. At a Council meeting some time ago,
a Council member suggested residents should fundraise themselves rather than
ask the Council for “handouts” to improve a public park. To what extent do
you believe local government is responsible for funding both the
“needs” and “wants” of its citizens? To what extent do you believe that
citizen requests of the Council qualify as asking for “handouts?” (150
space is essential for quality of life and providing an environment for
people to come together and build community. The more we can do to enhance
our parks and community events/programs the better we are for it. No town
should ever allow a new development to be built, or annex new lands, unless
that town is ready and willing to completely support that new area with all
infrastructure and services that are afforded to any other part of that
Porter Cove was
just one of our many neighborhoods I walked during this campaign. I have
asked individuals from each neighborhood, from all walks of life, to join
me- if I’m elected -to brainstorm ideas, and help formulate priorities. I
look forward to an opportunity to work with all of you to make a difference
off, using the term “handouts” infers that the residents of this Town are
not deserving of their own tax dollars. I think it's reasonable to assume
that maintaining a park would NOT equate to a "handout.” If the needs/wants
of Porter residents can be served without undue costs or burden to most
other residents, then it obliges any public official to do their very best
to make it happen. We will certainly have discussions about what is a want
and what is a need, and we should, but the Town, like us all, has its own
budget and can only spend what it has available. Any tax for current
spending needs/wants and any bond for future tax monies should be spent