James Wensits, writing for the South Bend Tribune has an article entitled Central time push could be renewed. The back story is that, after the Southwestern Counties completed their request to get back on to Eastern time, the US Dept. of Transportation was a little sick of us, and they imposed a one year moratorium on further petitions if they were not filed before Sunday. St. Joseph County filed a request to extend the deadline which the USDOT is considering. I don’t think the USDOT had any idea about the potential for a renewed Central Time petition when they crafted the moratorium, and so it will be interesting to see how resolute the agency is on a moratorium as it effect St. Joseph County. To be clear, the law does not really put any significant restrictions on the Secretary of Transportation’s ability to put time zones wherever he or she wants whenever he or she wants. The time deadlines and convenience of commerce criteria are pretty much voluntary and a little arbitrary on the part of the USDOT.
The St. Joseph County commissioners are apparently reconsidering a petition to go to Central Time. As readers here will recall, the county petitioned for Central during the initial hearings after implementation of Daylight Saving Time. The USDOT gave the county preliminary approval only to withdraw it as Elkhart County raised a fuss over having the time line moved into its backyard and convincing Governor Daniels to break the law in order to oppose St. Joseph County’s request.
Of the three St. Joseph County commissioners, one strongly favors Central Time, one is on the fence – though leaning toward Central Time, and one is opposed. Central Time proponent, Steve Ross notes that the county’s future is tied to Chicago:
“The economic life and future of St. Joseph County is tied to the greater metropolitan area of Chicago,” Ross said Monday, arguing that there would be a long-term detrimental effect to remaining on Eastern time.
In the middle is Robert Kovach who says that he is personally in favor of Central Time and is “leaning toward” filing a petition that formally asks the DOT to move St. Joseph County into the central time zone. He wants local business leaders to make a case for the move so that he can support the petition.
County Commissioner Mark Dobson is opposed to Central Time and is grousing about partisanship in not being consulted with respect to the letter requesting the deadline extension. But, I can’t see any way he would have been persuaded to join in on the letter. From the initial round of debates, I seem to recall Dobson as loyal to the Governor and sympathetic to Elkhart County’s interests.
A renewed petition makes sense to me from an economic perspective. St. Joseph County would be much better served now and especially in the future by hitching its train (figuratively and literally) to Chicago. The Chicago metropolitan area has so much more to offer than Elkhart County or other counties to the east of St. Joseph.
Updated The South Bend Tribune story contains input from a few of the area businesses. Matt Edmonds, vice president of Tire Rack, sees Central Time as a great opportunity for local businesses, particularly those involved in distribution. Mark Lerman of Steel Warehouse sees being on Eastern Time as a detriment since his major suppliers and customers are on Central Time. Rob Bartels, owner of Martin’s Supermarkets seemed almost indignant about the prospects of discussing Central Time further, noting that it would cause difficulties for his business and employees to be on different time zones.