The USDOT issued its final rule (pdf) on time zones.
DOT is relocating the time zone boundary in Indiana to move Starke, Pulaski, Knox, Daviess, Martin, Pike, Dubois, and Perry Counties from the Eastern Time Zone to the Central Time Zone. DOT is not changing the time zone boundary to move St. Joseph, Marshall, Fulton, Benton, White, Carroll, Cass, Vermillion, Sullivan, and Lawrence Counties from the Eastern Time Zone to
the Central Time Zone.
The new map looks like this:
St. Joseph was preliminarily approved but is now disapproved. Pulaski, Daviess, Duboiss, and Martin were preliminarily disapproved but is now approved. Aside from Pulaski, these shifts from the preliminary rule were the ones suggested by Governor Daniels (pdf) in his letter to the USDOT. (This was the letter that violated, in the case of St. Joseph County, IC 1-1-8.1-3 which required the State to support county commissioners in their petitions to move to a new time zone.)
I’ll update this as I read the decision.
Update The USDOT noted a statistic about comments to the docket — 33% Central, 50% Eastern, and 17% undecided. It says that it didn’t rely on this sort of numerical information, but I’m disturbed to see it even mentioned. There were no safeguards on the docket to protect against multiple posts, forged identities, or anything else. In addition, the pro-Eastern position was padded by the Chamber of Commerce astroturf campaign.
The USDOT essentially rejected the geographic argument out of hand (p. 20). First it says that Congress has directed that, in addition to longitudinal lines, the USDOT is to address the convenience of commerce. However, the USDOT suggests that, because it didn’t have a statewide approach before it and because the Indiana legislature did not endorse a statewide approach, it can’t consider the longitudinal argument in making its decisions. This is horribly misguided. This is not a binary question — either set the time zone firmly on the proper longitudinal division or ignore it completely. Rather, the further away one gets from the natural time zone line, the more compelling the other factors should be. Instead, the USDOT seemed to indicate an approach, if applied generally, would give Alaska the same “convenience of commerce” standard for a request to be moved to Central Time as a Central Time request from South Bend. Hoosiers for Central Time and Jeff Sagarin get a mention in this section.
Discussion of children’s safety starts at page 25. Mark Catanzarite and John Gaski are mentioned in this section for noting that there are more fatalities to children from accidents in morning darkness than evening darkness. Tom Heller also got a nice mention as he debunked a study cited by the Indiana Chamber which, Mr. Heller pointed out, “only addressed loading and unloading accidents and that there were no studies presented on moving school bus accidents or the performance of schoolchildren and academic achievement based on â€œunnaturally-early school hours.â€ Ultimately, the USDOT disregarded the safety of the children by taking the Bush Global Warming Approach — finely splitting hairs to disregard information provided, then complaining that there wasn’t enough information upon which to base any action.
The St. Joseph County section gives honorable mention to Paul O’Malley and John Gaski as well as discussing comments by Commissioners Bodle, Ross, and Dobson. The entire section is awash with “he said/she said” point-counterpoint on whether St. Joe should stay or go.
There did not seem to be any real opposition to Central Time for Starke and Marshall counties. However, despite the preference of Marshall County citizens for Central Time, much of the decision seemed to hinge on Marshall County’s interrelationship with St. Joseph County.
Paul O’Malley gets another mention with respect to Pulaski’s request to move. The Commissioners have a quote that captures my personal sentiments (and I suspect those of a great number of 2006 Indiana voters) pretty accurately: There were no citizens who were in favor of Eastern. All were in favor of leaving the time alone, by not having to change time during the year. But, if we have to choose one of the two, the choice would be Central Time. (p. 36). Fulton and White County’s petitions receive perfunctory mention. One thing I noticed with respect to White County’s petition is that Indiana Beach’s desire to be aligned with Chicago was not mentioned. Obviously, the amusement park’s preferences are not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but locally, Indiana Beach carries a lot of water. Given that White County’s write up is all of 12 lines long, you think they could have added a couple of lines to discuss the economic situation in the county.
The southwestern counties all pretty much read the same to me, mainly discussing the Evansville sphere of influence. Paul O’Malley gets yet another mention at page 47 with respect to Dubois County. Perry County’s switch to the Central Time Zone appears to have been on the strength of the Commissioners’ petition and the testimony of county attorney Chris Goffinet who said it was very important for Perry County to be on the same time as Dubois County. Out of the comments submitted to the docket from Perry County, 15 favored Central while 25 favored Eastern.
To me, the biggest surprise was Pulaski. It was not preliminarily approved, and the Commissioners did not submit additional data. However, the USDOT decided that Pulaski was closely tied to Starke County which was moved to Central.
The biggest disappointment was St. Joseph County. The USDOT seemed to take the best interests of Elkhart County to heart more than the best interests of St. Joseph County. Judging from the scare quotes put around “forcing,” the USDOT seemed to take umbrage at the notion that St. Joseph might be able to force Elkhart County into adopting Central Time. For some reason, the Department was not similarly offended by the notion that Elkhart might force St. Joseph County to remain on Eastern Time. In explaining its decision, the USDOT discusses St. Joseph County’s relation to Elkhart, Kosciusko, and Marshall counties but completely ignores its relation to LaPorte, Porter, and Lake counties.
When explaining its decision on St. Joseph County, the Department stated
We give substantial consideration to the views of local elected officials because the foundation of our time zone boundary proceedings rest upon their requests. We note that although the President of St. Joseph County signed the county petition, spoke in favor of it at the South Bend hearing, and subsequently submitted an additional letter of support to the docket, as a member of the Michiana Council of Governments (MACOG), she also made a motion to â€œsupport the sending of a letter by the policy board to ask that the four county region all remain in the same time zone.â€
In addition, a second St. Joseph County Commissioner submitted comments to the docket opposing a move to the Central Time Zone. Based on the conflicting views of the county commissioners in St. Joseph County and 2 local mayors and the information submitted showing St. Josephâ€™s ties to the Michiana area including Elkhart and Kosciusko Counties that did not petition for a change, we believe that a time zone change, at this time, would not be for the convenience of commerce. DOT, therefore, is not changing the time zone boundary for St. Joseph County. St. Joseph County will remain in the Eastern Time Zone.
It is disingenuous of the Department to view Commissioner Bodle’s MACOG motion that the counties remain together and her vote for Central Time for St. Joseph County as somehow contradictory. It’s pretty clear that she viewed the best outcome as Central Time for the four county area. The USDOT artificially limited the scope of its authority to petitioning counties when no such limitation is required by law. That is not Commissioner Bodle’s fault and her statements should not be viewed as contradictory simply because her policy recommendations did not account for the artificial limitation.
All in all, a disappointing but not surprising decision. Secretary Mineta essentially did what Governor Daniels asked him to do in his late November letter. If the Governor had suggested this configuration to the legislature in March during the consideration of the Daylight Saving Time bill rather than to Secretary Mineta in November, I wouldn’t be complaining so much. Then again, had he been up front about handling the time zone issue, the Daylight Saving Time bill wouldn’t have passed. As it is, I think there will be political hell to pay. It certainly does not help the legislators that disgruntled constituents will have to change their clocks on Sunday April 2, 2006 — 31 days before the primary, and again on Sunday October 29, 2006 — 9 days before the general election. After 2007, the Daylight Saving Time switch dates get even closer to election day.