Thursday, October 23, 2008


Where are we now?
This editorial was carried in the Register last week.

Last November, Dearborn County Commissioners Jeff Hughes and Rick Fox voted to table the proposed Land Use Map. The map was created to be a guide for our Planning Commission members to use when considering the future development of our county. Mr. Hughes indicated that he felt the public had not had ample opportunities to voice their opinions as to the development of the map, so therefore it must be tabled until the public had the chance to be heard.

This was disrespectful to the dozens of Advisory Committee members asked to assist with the development of a new Land Use Map. This committee was made up of a very diverse group of your friends and neighbors, including farmers, realtors, business owners, developers, and concerned parents. These individuals volunteered or were asked to take part due to either their interest in county affairs or their professional expertise. I was asked to participate by Mr. Mark McCormack, Dearborn County Planning Director, as he knew I was concerned about the future of our county and come from a family that has farmed here for nearly forty years. We committee members sacrificed time with our families to work on the map, only to see our efforts ignored by Commissioners Hughes and Fox.

It was rude to the Dearborn County Plan Commission members, who by default were participants on the Advisory Committee. These dedicated men and women listened to countless citizens voice their concerns about Planning Commission decisions throughout the years, attended numerous Land Use Map meetings, and thoroughly studied the proposed map before passing it to the Commissioners with a favorable recommendation.

Most of all this was an embarrassment to Dearborn County government. Commissioners Hughes and Fox curtly dismissed the efforts of the Planning Director. Mr. McCormack is one of the most dedicated people on the county’s payroll. He tirelessly organized meetings, kept the committee members focused, and included the public every step of the way! He and his department worked extremely hard to move the county forward on a project that had been in the works for over ten years, and was vital for the planning of future growth for our county.

In their re-election ads, both Commissioners have referred to money they have saved the county over the last four years, but when you consider all of the hours spent working on this project by county employees, the utilities used for multiple after hours meetings, and advertising, printing and mailing costs for public notifications, these two Commissioners have actually wasted tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars that they have conveniently forgotten to mention.

So why would Commissioners Hughes and Fox vote to table the map? Both of them, in consideration of their official positions, were on the Advisory Committee. They were involved with the progression from beginning to end. If they felt that Mr. McCormack wasn’t doing enough to keep the public involved, why didn’t they mention it sooner? The answer is simple – because it was a false claim. Mr. McCormack mailed invitations to every Dearborn county resident to attend multiple open houses on the choice of the final map. If the residents didn’t speak up, it certainly wasn’t because they weren’t asked for their opinions.

It’s been rumored that there are some that aren’t happy with the choice of the final map, particularly because it doesn’t allow for as much development as they’d like, specifically in the Northwest quadrant of the county. Could it be that Commissioner Fox’s partnership in a company with developer Tom Kent, and Commissioner Hughes’s campaign contribution from a developer have clouded their judgment as to what’s best for the county in favor of what’s best for them?

So, where are we now? It’s been almost one year since the map was tabled. What have commissioners Hughes and Fox done to ensure that the public has now been heard? How many public meetings have they held? Where are their records showing the names of county residents that they’ve called to ask about the subject?

The men and women that served on the Advisory Committee, the members of the Planning Commission, the employees of the Planning Department, and the concerned citizens that took the time from their busy lives to come to the open houses deserve an answer! When is the Land Use Map going to be on the Commissioner’s agenda and be passed? It is simply unacceptable that hundreds of people could participate in a process, come to a decision, and have that decision completely ignored by just two arrogant individuals.

Dearborn County citizens need to pay attention. Whether or not you think the map is important doesn’t matter – you need to know what’s happening where you live. Don’t wait until a development is proposed on a property near you, or your children’s grades start to slip because their class is overcrowded, or your taxes go up, again, because the district needs to build another school. Get involved now by voting! The actions of Commissioners Hughes and Fox should prove to you that they do not have the best interests of the citizens at heart, and need to be removed from office.

Reporter Denise Freitag Burdette referred to Mr. Hughes as a “silly, silly man” in her article written right after the proposed Land Use Map was tabled. Members of the Advisory and Plan Commissions would not have been as kind.

Linda Mitchell
Miller Township

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