Talking Points

June 19, 2017

Talking Points

• Indiana Doubles Down on Warm Beer — I don’t see this fight over liquor laws as a case study in cronyism. Here we have competing economic interests of approximately equal economic power fighting over public policy in an open forum subject to close public scrutiny. The author ignores the fact that large corporate-grocery, convenience- and drug-store interests are just as generous with their campaign contributions as the liquor-store owners. In my view this fight is nothing more than a traditional fight over public policy by politically significant players each of whom has a rational basis for its argument in support of a legislative result that would serve its economic interest. — Tom Huston

• When the City of Noblesville learned that oil-based products located on the site leased by the city to the Indiana Transportation Museum had been inappropriately stored, it could have discussed the matter privately with the leadership of the railway-preservation organization and helped it solve the problem. Instead it issued a news release intended to elevate improper storage and incidental spillage into an existential environmental threat. After the story had been milked for all it was worth, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management took a look at the site and concluded that there was no immediate threat and no long term big deal. Why the manufactured fuss? It may be that nothing more is involved here than the usual level of bullying that the Hamilton County public has come to expect from the people who run their local governments. On the other hand, it is likely that the fake crisis is payback by Mayor John Ditslear for the forthright opposition of the Museum and its volunteers to the plan by Noblesville and Fishers to convert the Nickel Plate Railroad track between the two cities into a pedestrian pathway. This is a section of the track on which the Museum-sponsored “Fair Train” operated for many years until it was cancelled last summer on account of trouble with the railroad bed along the route from Noblesville to the State Fair Grounds. I know pedestrian pathways are popular and add value to a community but their utility in a particular circumstance should be weighed against all available options. I don’t have a dog in the fight as to whether a section of the Nickel Plate is converted to a non-rail use. I believe the wiser course is for the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which has control over the Nickel Plate right-of-way, to maintain and improve the existing tracks and keep open the option of making transportation use of this unique resource, but that is just one man’s opinion. The point here is that all opinions ought to be welcomed and fairly weighed, and the sort of intimidation by which local officialdom routinely works its will in Hamilton County should come to end. — Tom Huston

• Mayor Henry Breaks Ground on Giant Project  — Watching a smiling Mayor Tom Henry of Fort Wayne ceremoniously cut the ribbon last week on a $240-million waste-water project, some wondered what would be the city’s situation had it addressed the problem at its start. That would have been 20 years ago when it became clear that the federal government was going to force action. To scribble on the envelope, the city’s 77,000 or so water customers could have been assessed a modest $12 monthly surcharge  beginning back then and avoided bonding and related fees that have doubled the total cost. In addition, city officials would have been in a position to design a system to fit Fort Wayne’s needs rather than have one dictated by Washington bureaucrats. Which raises the question of what, exactly, is it that we’re smiling about. — Craig Ladwig



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