[Updated 11:05 EST 11/14/05]
I went to the Logansport Time Zone hearings and was pleased to meet some of the folks who occasionally read this blog. There didn’t seem to be that many people there — maybe 75 (thought I could be mistaken due to the size of the auditorium), but it lasted the full 4 hours from 2:30 to 6:30. The public sentiment was almost universally in favor of Central Time. I’d guess about 90%.
The hearing was set up in a Phil Donahue format with the USDOT representative — I can’t recall her name; Joanne Petrie must have pulled some strings to avoid having to come deal with another Indiana time zone scuffle — introducing herself and going over the basics of who she was, why the Dept. was conducting the hearings, and the convenience of commerce criteria. The county commissioners from petitioning counties were allowed to go first. I recall officials from Starke, Carroll, and Cass Counties being there, mainly doing their best to express the will of their constituents — the average margin at their public hearings seemed to be about 2 or 3 to 1 in favor of Central. There was also some general grumpiness about this being dropped in their laps by the state and federal officials. Next, state officials were allowed to speak. Representative Steve Heim representing Starke and Marshall Counties was there and (I think) Senator Heinold, also from that area. Both supported Central time for their constituencies.
For some reason, Brian Bergsma from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce was allowed to go before any of the rest of the unelected individuals attending the hearing. He handed out some documents, spouted some statistics, and left pretty quickly after he’d finished speaking.
Hearing public opinion apparently isn’t high on his priority list. (I have received information suggesting this may be an unfair characterization. Fairness would seem to dictate that judgment be withheld on the Chamber’s interest in public sentiment until after future hearings. On the other hand, whether it does or doesn’t have such an interest, the Chamber doesn’t really have any duty to be overly interested in public opinion. It owes a duty to its members, no more, no less. That’s the nature of politics and the nature of lobbying.)
The public commentary varied widely in its quality. In my opinion, the most effective speaker was Tom Heller who came up from Columbus, Indiana. He addressed some of the statistics put forward by the Chamber of Commerce. Most telling to me was his retort to the Chamber’s talking point that 39% of Indiana’s exports go to eastern time zone states. Mr. Heller had crunched the data and determined that, using a state’s major export time zone destination as the criteria to determine the state’s time zone, Illinois and Wisconsin would be eastern time zone state; Utah would be a Pacific time zone state; and California would be either an Eastern time zone state or a Central time zone state.
There was a trucker who didn’t want his route from Winimac to South Bend to take him from eastern to central to eastern to central again. The route had to accommodate deliveries to some establishments that didn’t open until later in the morning or afternoon. The latest opener pretty much dictated when the route could be run. There were plenty of folks concerned that a later sunrise would make weather more of a factor in getting kids to schools. Under the current time situation, a two hour delay is usually sufficient to let weather pass. Under Eastern Daylight Time, the same weather situation would require a three hour delay which would result in the school being closed for the day. A lot of folks also addressed Indiana’s geographic position in Central Time. The Central Zone is to be centered on 90 degrees west whereas the Eastern Zone is to be centered on 75 degrees west. Indiana stretches from something like 84 to 87 degrees. We’re 3 to 6 degrees from the center of where the Central Time Zone is supposed to be whereas we’re 9 to 12 degrees from the center of where the Eastern Time Zone is supposed to be.
I made the argument that the process has been unnecessarily stacked against Central Time. For the past 30 years, we’ve been functionally on Central Daylight Time for 7 months out of the year and Eastern Standard Time 5 months out of the year. The least alteration from the status quo would be Central Time. Instead, we find ourselves with Eastern Time as the default. This came about because 30 years ago, Indiana wanted year round Central Daylight Time. Because of the way the DST law was written, this wasn’t an option, but year round Standard Time was an option. So, most of Indiana was shifted into the Eastern Zone with the understanding they’d opt for year round Eastern Standard Time which is, of course, the functional equivalent of Central Daylight Time. However, with Gov. Daniels, et al. having pushed through the Daylight Saving Time bill, that work around has consequences. Instead of defaulting to Central Time, as we were on back in 1968, we have a default to Eastern Time. This combines with the State’s failure to properly seek a state wide review of what time zone was appropriate.
Now, what we have is a county-by-county time zone review where a county that doesn’t petition or doesn’t meet a convenience of commerce burden is stuck in eastern time. Added to this, you have the fact that, the smaller the unit, the tougher it is to meet the burden. To take an extreme example, if the USDOT required every household to show switching time zones met the convenience of commerce, you’d have 2 or 3 houses at the border in the running and everyone else stuck in the default setting. Finally, the USDOT representative indicated that the Department would not consider changing a non-petitioning county. Put it all together, and Central Time isn’t getting anything like a fair shake.
Judging from the folks in the audience, admittedly a self-selected and unusually motivated bunch, there will be some political fall out from this. Almost universally, eastern supporters as well as central, the audience members faulted a lack of leadership in Indianapolis for the fix we’re in.
Update Some coverage of the time zone hearings in the newspapers.
People came mad and left disappointed at the first of four federal hearings on Indiana’s time zones. For more than four hours Sunday, speaker after speaker argued that all of the state should be in a single time zone, with virtually everyone favoring Central time. But that option isn’t on the table at this point, said Judy Kaleta, the senior conflict resolution counsel for the U.S. Department of Transportation. . . . Nothing is final, Kaleta said, but unless a county asks for a time zone change, the federal government won’t act. That means most of the state will end up on Eastern time. . . . Several people blasted Gov. Mitch Daniels, drawing applause each time. Michael G. Jackson, a Cass County resident, blamed Daniels for pushing for daylight-saving time, which precipitated the current time zone debate, and for not making a time zone recommendation that unites most if not all of Indiana. “This never should have begun,” Jackson said. “This is a Mitch Daniels problem, and Mitch Daniels is going to have to fix it, not the DOT.”
Doug Masson, a Monticello attorney, echoed the opinion. Based on geography, Masson testified that the boundary for the Eastern and Central time zones would be somewhere in Ohio, not Indiana, a state that is only 140 miles wide. Splitting a narrow state with time zones is not a good idea, he said. “You just don’t have that much east to west in Indiana,” he said.
He also mentions something I forgot to. When Brian Bergsma, speaking on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, was speaking, he mentioned data supporting the Chamber’s contention that Daylight Saving Time saved energy. Someone in the back row shouted out “LIAR!” Honestly, that kind of crap just doesn’t help the cause.