Chesterton Tribune



Ton takes aim at beachfront leglslation, Darnell at bill to gut education transparency

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Chesterton Town Council members Jim Ton, R-1st, and Sharon Darnell, D-4th, are taking aim at a pair of bills pending in the Indiana House.

One, as Ton said at Monday’s council meeting, would gut the public’s use of Lake Michigan beachfront in the interest of private property owners.

The other, Darnell said, is a direct attack on transparency in public education.

Begin with H.B. 1031, authored by State Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart. This bill would recognize the “existence of private property below the natural ordinary high water mark” when the most recent recorded deed “indicates that the private property extends below the natural ordinary high water mark.” It would also limit recreational activities in such cases below that mark; permit owners of private property located adjacent to Lake Michigan to remove sand and unwanted vegetation; and strip municipalities from regulating the building of seawalls or other permanent structures in or near Lake Michigan.

In short, H.B. 1031 would overturn the already litigated and decided Long Beach, Ind., case, in Gunderson v. Indiana (2018).

Reading from a prepared statement, Ton denounced Miller’s bill:

“Here we go again. It goes like this: ‘Let’s carve out some beach for our private use, forget public access, it’s my beach.’

“Individuals with more self-interest than common sense have initiated the latest edition of this ‘broken record’ and called on non-local legislators to support their rights to take a public beach.

“The Supreme Court in Gunderson v. Indiana (2018) rejected claims that deeds which reach into the lake are valid. This judgment retained the ‘high water mark’ standard which has been in effect since the State of Indiana was created in 1816, the Land Ordinance of 1785, and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The beach clearly extends from water’s edge to the ‘high water mark.’ Again, ‘out-of-the-region’ legislators with little or no knowledge of the local communities’ interests, the environment they live in, or the long fight for the Dunes want to tell those who do have that knowledge what is ‘best for them.’ . . .

“So here we are, once again called to ‘man the barricades.’ Contact your legislators now. This is a short legislative session, so don’t delay. Much is at stake. . .

“Back the Save the Dunes organization and other organizations which are fighting this short-sighted and self-minded action. Keep the faith. Herb and Charlotte Read fought the good fight, and we need to do the same.”

H.B. 1003

Darnell, for her part, finds this provision in H.B. 1003--authored by State Rep. Jack Jordan, R-Bremen--troubling: the elimination of the requirement that a school corporation’s annual performance report be published in a newspaper.

According to the Indiana Department of Education, “the Annual Performance Report is a required publication that includes the academic and performance data for all Indiana school corporations.” Under state statute, every Indiana school corporation must publish its annual performance report in the local newspaper between March 15 and March 31.

Darnell, noting that her constituents have emphasized to her, in no uncertain terms, their desire for transparency, asked this question: “Why in God’s name would we eliminate the requirement of a school’s having to publish its performance report?”

A school corporation is no different from any other taxing unit and should not be exempt from public scrutiny, she added.

Last Thoughts

Member Bob Allison, D-3rd, took a moment at the end of the meeting to express his gratitude to Police Chief Dave Cincoski and the CPD for its work in the Christopher Dillard murder investigation. “Kudos to Chief Cincoski and the Metropolitan Investigations Division for getting the maximum sentence for Nicole Gland’s murderer.” Dillard was sentenced earlier this month to 65 years in prison.

Allison also had praise for the Park Department’s holiday decorations at Thomas Centennial Park. “I did hear a lot of compliments on the decorations,” he told Superintendent Bruce Mathias. “So kudos.”

Member Jennifer Fisher, I-5th, congratulated Ton on his appointment to the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s Executive Committee as Porter County’s representative. “We’re very proud of Mr. Ton’s achievements and wish him luck going forward,” she said.


Posted 1/15/2020




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