Representative Chris Chocola of Indiana’s Second Congressional District appears to be taking a bold stand in favor of forcing St. Joseph County to remain on Eastern Time. Representative Chocola wrote a letter (pdf) to the USDOT. He does not explicitly take a stand on Central or Eastern, but he does say:
The counties of St. Joseph,
Elkhart and Marshall share close economic and social ties. The economic necessity of keeping these counties under one time zone must take precedence over all other justifications for a time zone change.
Since he does not and, to my knowledge, has not, suggest that Elkhart County submit a petition for a time zone switch (which it is allowed to do at any time); he is in effect asking the USDOT to give Elkhart County a veto over St. Joseph and Marshall Counties and force them to be placed in the Eastern Time Zone. This is a bold stand for Rep. Chocola since the entire Second Congressional District petitioned the USDOT to be placed in the Central Time Zone, with the exceptions of the slivers of the Second District extending to the city of Elkhart and the city of Kokomo.
If I were a Democrat looking to challenge for Chocola’s seat, I certainly wouldn’t be above using the time zone issue –which really isn’t a naturally partisan issue– to scrape off a few pro-Central Time Republicans.
Update The South Bend Tribune has a story on Chocola’s letter. His official line is that he is taking no position on which time zone is better, just that all the counties ought to stick together. Martin Agostino’s article states:
But under the time-zone process outlined by the Transportation Department, the federal government can only move a county to a new time zone if it petitions for a change. St. Joseph and Marshall counties did so, but Elkhart County did not.
“I don’t know if the DOT has other options,” Chocola said.
Well, that’s very helpful Mr. Representative, sir. As a U.S. Representative, it would be nice if he would think through the consequences of his proposals and how they work in the real world before sharing them with the media and federal agencies.
Actually, I suspect Rep. Chocola is very much aware that the “keep ’em together” line is a de facto way of forcing Eastern Time on St. Joseph County. I suspect he fears the consequences of being forthright about that stance. Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe he is just wading in to the public policy debate without really understanding the issues.