Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Negative political mailers tainting county election again

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

They’re back this year and invading a mailbox near you.

A series of political ads created and distributed by the Porter County GOP over the past two weeks have their Democratic counterparts crying foul over the content blaming them for late tax bills prior to 2010.

One chides the Dems for teacher layoffs and school program cuts, and another alleges that cities and towns were left with no money to hire law enforcement officers.

The GOP mailers center on an imaginary football team called “The Fumbling Four”, the players being County Council at-large candidates Bob Poparad, Sylvia Graham, and Dan Whitten along with South County Commissioner Candidate Laura Shurr Blaney.

Whitten, current president of the County Council, made mention of the ads during last Monday’s special Council meeting held to approve the Valparaiso Community Schools budget. He said he had received phone calls from residents concerned that he would politicize and make big cuts to the budget. He called the mailers “desperate” and “outrageous” and the budget he supported along with all other members of the County Council was agreed upon by Valparaiso School officials.

“I know (the budget) is in good hands,” Whitten said.

Whitten later went on to say he is “disgusted” by the GOP fliers and that this type of political attack reminds him of “Cook County backdoor politics.” The Democrats were actually part of the solutions that led to on-time tax bills in 2010, he added.

Graham said that nearly every county in Indiana during 2009 shared the problem of late tax bills because of changes in state legislation regarding property taxes and school funding. She said she was part of the effort to place a state-certified software system in the county auditor and assessor offices that got taxes back on track.

“I did everything I could to give them the tools to do their job,” she said.

Blaney said County government is not responsible for the deficiencies in school’s General Fund budgets which pay for teacher and aide positions. She said the state took control of those budgets in 2008 and they are funded through sales taxes.

But Ken Taylor, an organizer for the Porter County GOP, told the Tribune there is evidence to back the mailers’ claims. The mailers cite a series of articles and editorials published by the local media, mainly from 2009, when months had gone by without the county tax bills going out.

One of the articles, Taylor said, described a plan made by then County Treasurer and Republican Jim Murphy that would have loaned money to other taxing units but the Council, which was made up of six Democrats and one Republican, did not approve the plan or even vote on it. A discussion involving use of hospital interest money to be lent to the other taxing units was also turned down, leaving them with no payments and large amounts of interest, due to having to borrow from other sources.

Taylor cited another article that said the Portage School District saw a hit to its budget of $439,000 from the late tax bills.

Meanwhile, Graham said voters should be cautious of any campaign materials they receive between now and Election Day on Nov. 6.

“Anything that comes out a short time before the election only has the purpose to get votes,” she said. That also includes a “selective” letter that was signed and sent by fellow Dems Whitten and Blaney over the weekend to county employees saying they supported a failed version of the 2013 budget that would have given raises they feel the employees deserve, Graham said.

Poparad said the GOP mailers are “blatantly misleading” and one of them cited articles from years when he wasn’t even on the Council. “It’s nothing but ridiculous,” he said.

He asked when somebody from the GOP would take a stand against negative campaigning and mudslinging.

According to Taylor, the ads were created solely by the Porter County GOP group and not by any of the candidates.

Poparad does have one more complaint to lodge – the position he was given to play on “The Fumbling Four.”

“Why don’t I get to be quarterback? I think I would make a great quarterback,” Poparad said.

 

 

Posted 11/1/2012