Skeptics Express Doubts about RDA

Published August 1, 2005

Many outside state or local government are skeptical of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

Gambling Money Disappears

In a May 5 column in the Post-Tribune newspaper of Merrillville, Indiana, Maurice M. Eisenstein, associate professor of political science at Purdue University, noted the area has little to show from $1.5 billion in gambling revenue that has come in since dockside casinos were approved 12 years ago.

“What do we have? About 1,000 low-paying jobs and the highest mortgage default rate in the country,” Eisenstein wrote.

Regarding the RDA plan, Eisenstein wrote, “The … package, combined with the biennial budget, is an economic disaster for NWI [Northwest Indiana] by any objective standards of economic development. Economic development means bringing more money into a geographical area than goes out. … The new RDA authority primarily allows NWI to spend its own money.”

Politics Cause Concern

Tom Drake, a Munster, Indiana resident and local Republican activist, said, “This has become a nightmare. I thought this whole boondoggle would be dead when Republicans took over the House and governorship. Instead, our Republican governor [Mitch Daniels] embraced it. He has essentially ignored Lake County grassroots Republicans and suburban voters.

“As far as Gary Airport [is concerned], there probably could be economic development, but first they must take control away from the corrupt local politicians,” Drake said.

Some local politicians also have objections. In a column in the Munster Times, Dan Whitten, a member of the Porter County Council, complained, “all those involved with the bill admit that its spending priority is first the Gary/Chicago International Airport.

“Porter County was included in the bill because Lake County’s reputation for wasteful government spending and corruption did not bode well in selling the bill downstate. In other words, Porter County was used to pass a piece of legislation for Lake County.”

Whitten was one of three Porter County Council members who opposed raising a local income tax to fund the RDA.

In 1962, Bobby Kennedy, then U.S. Attorney General, called Lake County, Indiana the most corrupt county in America.

— Steve Stanek