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Forum features local candidates

September 28, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY – The public had the opportunity to hear from local candidates at a question and answer forum hosted by The League of Women Voters of La Porte County and the Better Government Study Group.

Held Wednesday in the Michigan City Common Council Chambers, the forum was moderated by Leigh Morris with questions from the audience and organizers. Only written questions were accepted. Candidates were allotted one minute to answer.

The forum began with candidates from House District 9, Democrat Patricia Boy and Republican Dan Granquist.

The were asked what the most important duties were for District 9.

Boy said she would check the current laws for common sense, so laws suited the people of Indiana, not lobbyists. Granquist said he would be available and listen to all, bringing his professional expertise to the legislature to help the economy.

They were also asked what three issues were the most important for Indiana.

“Funding for schools, creating a job climate to bring jobs here and repairing our infrastructure,” said Boy

“Pass laws to provide safety of the economic welfare of our communities, balance the budget and provide skilled employees to bring companies here,” said Granquist.

Candidates for County Council District 2 and 4 spoke next. Democrat Randy Novak and Republican Jim Rice made up District 2. Democrat Steve Holifield and Republican Michael Rosenbaum comprised District 4.

The candidates were asked to identify the most important issue and what they would do.

“Being a good steward of the county budget and a good planner, something I find completely lacking in the council at the present time,” Rice said. “They look at short-range planning...we need long-range plans for throughout the years, not just one year.”

“Fiscal responsibility is where it’s at, it is a manner of moving La Porte County forward, we can’t sit on a lot of money in the bank – there are a lot of things that need to be done,” said Novak.

Novak countered Rice saying they do have a long range plan as studies are in place for buildings, including revising the courthouses in Michigan City and La Porte.

Holifield answered, “Spending the taxpayer’s money wisely, looking to the future. I’m a firm believer if we can shrink the government, make it smaller, it becomes more fiscally responsible... less government, lower taxes and less regulations, that I feel will attract development.”

Rosenbaum replied, “You have to learn the inner workings of how things come about. I want to see four year plans from every department...more open communication for everybody to see, make sure people know what’s going on.”

Candidates were asked how feasible it is to convert the landfill south of I-94 into a recreational area.

Rice said it has been done before and is very feasible. Novak said it’s absolutely feasible but needs to be handled with caution.

Holifield said he agrees it is feasible, but has a lot more questions than answers if it is taken on by the county. Rosenbaum said he has been through this before when he was on a town council. He said they had taken certain parts of the land to get a ball field and soccer field out if it, but were limited by contaminates, so he would move forward slowly.

Next was County Commissioner District 1, comprised of Democrat Sheila Brillson and Republican Connie Gramarossa.

Someone from the audience asked them to identify the most important issue facing La Porte County.

“Jobs, jobs and jobs. Seeking new jobs and helping our companies grow is critical to the success and health of our county,” said Brillson “We need to make sure there are jobs not only for people here now, but for our children.”

Brillson said she started the Economic Development Corp. Michigan City and worked with the city to help companies grow, along with bringing new companies to the county.

“I’ve done it before, I can do it again,” she said.

Gramarossa said there were three issues she looked at.

“One is the drug problem. Second the growth of La Porte, Thirdly infrastructure,” she said.

“You have to work with all the departments,” she added. “You have to work with the council and get it funded. It’s a combined effort, and we are moving this county forward.”

Candidates were asked if they will help to expand high-speed internet access to rural areas not served in La Porte County.

A resident of Rolling Prairie, Gramarossa said she doesn’t have high speed internet. She said is not a local issue, but rather a state issue.

“We can talk to our officials, but the reality is this is going to be an issue that has to be spanned out and worked on with many different entities,” Gramarossa said.

Brillson said it would be a great opportunity to increase relationships with state office holders.

“Infrastructure around technology. It is not just a luxury anymore, it is essential,” Brillson said.

Michigan City School Board candidates Thomas Dombkowski and Joanne Tedesco were the final two speakers.

Morris asked how the candidates would make sure graduates are prepared for a changing future.

Dombkowski said they need to support students, citing the AK Smith Center helps with job preparedness.

“One of the best things that happened this year was a first annual signing of young people at the AK Smith Center,” he said. “There were carpenters there that added four kids straight to the job.”

Tedesco said they need to prepare students with job coaching and internship programs.

“Getting them prepared with knowing what college means and how to prepare for that... giving them the details so they know what to expect moving forward,” Tedesco said.

An audience question asked if they will support the AK Smith Center to provide greater access to training, job placement services and speakers.

Dombkowski said he would support the center “with anything it would take, it is such a great place. I think it’s a cut above just about any place around... the more support we get from everybody the more partnerships we get.”

Tedesco said it is a wonderful opportunity for the children. She said she would start by “digging in, working with and listening to the teachers about all that is going on, I can’t say that I know the ins and outs of everything, but I do have the heart for it.”

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