The South Bend Tribune has an article entitled Elkhart County jilted. It describes what it describes as a “rambling discourse” written by Elkhart Commissioner Mike Yoder. I don’t know if it was a letter to St. Joseph County or what version the discourse took, but I give him points for style.
“Of course we should have seen it coming,” Yoder wrote in a rambling discourse. “They’ve been giving pretty clear signals their interest was wandering toward the west. Some guy named Chicago has been on their mind a lot lately, and apparently there is also someone else named Kenosha.”
The latter reference was to St. Joseph County Commissioner Steve Ross’ contention that St. Joseph County is at the eastern end of an economic corridor that includes Chicago and extends all the way to Kenosha, Wis.
“So we tried to remind them of their responsibility to the family,” Yoder said. “They have our airport, our passenger rail service and our TV stations.
“But no, they said they were not leaving the neighborhood, just wanting to hook up with someone else. They will still be here, just in a different time zone. … And then the truth came out, we were just a trailer factory guy and their interests have changed.
“I suppose we should have given up at that point, after all, how can a trailer factory guy compete with an uptown, Armani suit guy like Chicago?”
It seems a little offbeat for something like that to be coming from a County Commissioner, but I guess that’s why local politics tend to be more fun than state or national. Seemingly lost in Commissioner Yoder’s hand-wringing is a true assessment of what is more important to Elkhart County: being in synch with St. Joseph County or being in synch with Indianapolis, and other counties that surround Elkhart. We know Elkhart’s preference would be to be in synch with everyone, including St. Joseph County. But that’s not Elkhart County’s choice to make. Elkhart relies on St. Joseph much more than the reverse. Just like in any relationship, romantic, economic, or otherwise, the one that needs it least has the most power over it. That puts Elkhart County in a position where it has to make a choice: St. Joseph County and the West, or other area counties and the East.
St. Joseph Commissioner Steve Ross had a realistic assessment of the situation:
Ross was blunt in his rejection of Yoder’s call for a delay and firm in his support of the move to Central time.
“We’re called the Midwest, not the Mideast,” said Ross, who maintained that the growth in U.S. commerce is toward the South and West, while the Northeast “is a stable but not a developing economy.”
Ross also rejected Yoder’s Friday claim that Elkhart County could surpass St. Joseph County both in population and its economy within five years.
“We are a much bigger economy,” Ross said. “If he wants to believe Elkhart will overtake us in five years, he can. It’s not going to happen.”
Ross also said he found Yoder’s comments to be arrogant.
“If he wants to think Elkhart is the dog and we’re the tail, he’s welcome to that belief,” Ross said, adding that “much wiser people” believe it is St. Joseph County that is the regional powerhouse.
I think there are plausible (but ultimately insufficient) arguments for St. Joseph to be in the Eastern Time Zone, but Elkhart County’s assertion that St. Joseph County is somehow beholden to follow its lead is not one of them.
Incidentally, if anyone can forward Commissioner’s Yoder’s “rambling discourse” or give me a pointer to it, I’d love to read the whole thing.