It always warms my heart to see civic particpation in any form.
Tuesday, with a resolution to support an expansion of liquor licenses for the downtown before the Michigan City Common Council, a standing room-only crowd packed council chambers at City Hall.
The issue had erupted on social media in the days leading up to the meeting with people on both sides offering up both salient points and petitions to support their cause.
After two hours of public comment and council comment from just about everyone, the measure narrowly passed by a 5-4 vote.
This is a tough issue, and one that deserved a high level of discourse. For the most part, that was on display Tuesday night. Many spoke and many spoke eloquently either for or against the resolution.
I found myself doing a lot of head nodding no matter who was doing the speaking. On the one hand, longtime tavern owners who paid hefty prices for their liquor licenses have a completely legitimate gripe. I get it. These are people who, also, are longtime members of the community. They're good people, so when they speak, I listen.
I don't, however, buy the argument that competition will be bad for their establishments. Councilman Tim Bietry, to me, said it best when he noted, "a rising tide lifts all ships." If there are more people in the downtown, it only stands to reason there is more opportunity for everyone to succeed.
On the city's side, they've focused a lot of energy and resources on downtown revitalization. I'm not a fan of the argument that the city is focusing only on the north end, because it's just blatantly untrue. TIFs have been set up all over the city to spur revitalization, for instance, and much effort has been put into the Michigan Boulevard corridor and south end, just to name a couple projects.
But, the north end is where the city hopes to capitalize on immense opportunity, and a lot of positive groundwork has already been laid.
It's also important to note here that the resolution in question was simply an expansion of an already existing law. A little less than 10 years ago, a state law allowed for cities to set up these zones for liquor licenses within 1,500 feet of a body of water (in our case, Trail Creek), and that was adopted locally. Two years ago, the state law changed, increasing that distance to a max of 3,000 feet.
It so happens that, locally, adopting that new boundary would encompass the downtown. Seeing an opportunity to spur interest in downtown business, the city introduced the idea, leading to it going through various commissions before Tuesday's council vote.
To me, it just makes sense to have adopted this measure, even if I sympathize with those who oppose it. For the city to accomplish what it has set out to accomplish, the success of the downtown is critical. That's not to say that offering these liquor licenses is the only way to go about it, and perhaps the downtown would have succeeded even had this resolution failed.
Also, it's passage doesn't guarantee success. Think of it more as a tool in the kit that city officials now have to make this thing go. Progress isn't always popular, but elected officials are asked to act in the best interest of the city.
Though it was contentious, I believe that's what's happened here. Some will feel slighted, and I can't really begrudge them that, but the city is continuing to move forward. Hopefully that's something we all can support.
Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-219-214-4170.