OPINION: Voters throughout Indiana should question Governor Holcomb and other elected officials who have continually voted to take away accountability in the expenditure of public funds. If the RDA plans are wise and just, why must they be shielded from public comment and review?
July 27, 2018-On Friday I filed a Complaint seeking judicial review of actions taken by the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority Board of Commissioners(RDA) and the Northwest Indiana Commuter Transportation District Board of Trustees. Over the past several years, more and more power has been granted to the RDA by our legislators and the Holcomb Administration. House Bill 1144 in 2017 granted the unelected RDA the power to collect and spend local taxes. This session, RDA Attorney Phil Genetos drafted and the legislature passed House Bill 1374. House Bill 1374 provides that there is little opportunity for oversight into RDA or NICTD Board actions. RDA and NiCTD Board members, without even reading the statute, then passed that authority on to staff. This Complaint seeks judicial review of the decision to hand that power over to staff. One of the many ways House Bill 1374 limited review of the actions of the unelected NICTD and RDA Boards was to limit the time for seeking judicial review to just 15 days.
Governor Holcomb has made it clear that it is his intention to utilize the NWI RDA model throughout the State of Indiana. All Indiana residents who value local government and input into local decisionmaking should be concerned about these developments. Whether a court finds that the delegation of power is legal or not, residents should question the wisdom of continuing to elect leaders who deprive citizens of representative government.
If the RDA plans are wise and just, why must they be shielded from public comment and review?
The RDA has a long history of rosy predictions, distortion of the truth and avoiding accountability. According to frequent WJOB caller Walt, RDA moved their meetings to 10:00 a.m. on weekdays after residents showed at a meeting in Hammond and asked tough questions. The Board later moved their meetings to a location in Crown Point. At a recent meeting Board Chair Don Fesko declared that residents had two minutes for public comment despite the fact that the agenda itself reiterated the rule that three minutes are allowed for public comment. The Indiana Public Access Counselor recently noted that the RDA refused to respond to a “mundane” request for records:
At issue in that case was whether residents are required to wait 30 days after requesting records to file a complaint with the office of the Public Access Counselor. The “mundane” request was simply a copy of a draft agenda. The request was referred to the RDA Attorney and, at the time of the PAC Opinion, had not been provided even though over 30 days had passed since the date of the request. Ironically, the attorney for the RDA argued in that case that staff were not authorized to release the draft agenda and doing so would require Board action.FINAL_RDA_Resolution_18-01_-c (2)