Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Phillips and Burge face off for Porter Town Council seat

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By LILY REX

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 length.

1) Age, occupation.

Burge: 55, Vice-president Marketing & New Business Development, CET Fire Pump Manufacturing

Phillips: 58, 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.

Phillips: 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.

4) Differentiate 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.

Phillips: I 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)

Burge: --More family-oriented community events, sports leagues etc. to enhance our sense of community while supporting the festivals we already have.

--Drainage & infrastructure solutions.

--Expand and link the entire town via bike/pedestrian trails so individuals and families can explore our town and surrounding areas safely.

--Reduce highway noise in our neighborhoods by working with state legislators to explore feasibility of erecting sound mitigating walls along the I-94 corridor.

--Help 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.

Phillips: After talking with many residents of the Town here are a few things that many have mentioned to me.

--Drainage -- making sure the low areas --ditches etc. are cleared and the water kept flowing.

--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? (150 words)

Burge: Porter 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 Authority.

Phillips: I 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)

Burge: TIF’s 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.

Phillips: The 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 words)

Burge: Green 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 municipality.

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 for Porter.

Phillips: First 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 wisely.

 

 

Posted 10/16/2019

 
 
 
 

 

 

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