MICHIGAN CITY – Jim LaRocco, independent candidate for mayor, believes every Michigan City voter should ask themselves what the incumbent mayor "has done for me, my family, my business and my neighborhood."
The lifetime city resident believes nothing attracts businesses, visitors and potential new residents more than clean, safe, attractive neighborhoods, he said.
"A community's pride, self image, and quality of life start with its neighborhoods. As mayor, I would hold ward meetings and tour each ward with residents, their respective council representatives and departments to identify and rectify problems and issues."
He sees many problems himself, including what he calls inequity in the Promise Scholarship program.
"Many longtime residents are renters by choice or out of financial necessity," LaRocco said, "yet their children are denied the ability to receive financial assistance from the Promise Scholarship."
He believes the opportunity should be made available to all high school students who spend their final four years attending a Michigan City high school.
LaRocco said he also recognizes that "Riverboat funds are not guaranteed and that a portion of the revenue should be placed in trust and invested each year so the eventual income could be used to address inflation and potential loss of the funds."
Instead, he says, he sees wasteful spending and questionable practices.
"Wasteful spending needs to end and I question why the city expends $180,000 per year to an outside entity for the city's internet presence when it could be done in house at a fraction of the cost." He also questions why the City Controller is paid $60,000, "yet an outside company is contracted to help him do his job."
The Michigan City Police Department also needs a change, LaRocco said. He questions why thee department is losing so many officers.
"I have repeatedly been told by officers it is not in fact the salary, but the working conditions and treatment of officers causing them to look for other employment. I intend to infuse a new culture and command structure within the department.
"Officers should be encouraged to report every crime, not just those that fit the chief's agenda. Crime statistics go down on paper when they are not reported or fully investigated."
He also believes the concept of Community Policing needs to be "reapplied" and, "Citizens should feel comfortable approaching and working with those sworn to serve and protect."
The 6th Ward residents feels the "increasing prevalence of vagrancy and homeless individuals in our downtown area" is an issue being neglected by the present administration.
"I disagree with the police chief when he says nothing can be done by law enforcement to address the issue, but acknowledges that there are other alternatives that exist to treat the underlying causes.
"Just like maintaining roads, collecting trash, keeping street signs from being obstructed and regularly painting centerlines, lane markers and crosswalks; a diligent, proactive mayor should fix problems, not ignore them."
He sees a lot of major projects on the horizon and said he would be able to handle them.
"Our community must address a large number of large-scale projects, ranging from our infrastructure upgrading, developer obligations such as performance bond equal to the amount of any infrastructure provided by the city to a project; code compliance and the South Shore Double Track, to name a few.
"These will require the city to employ or contract the services of a competent, licensed engineer to oversee the projects and insure the best interests of Michigan City are always at the forefront."
LaRocco, 68, is the son of former mayor Joe LaRocco, and lives on Twin Road with his wife, Sue. He served in the U.S. Army and is a retired member of the Michigan City Fire Department with 27 years of service. For the past 40 years he has operated LaRocco Pest Control, and also owns and operates miscellanyradio.com.
In addition, he was involved in numerous youth sports organization, including the Michigan City Boys Football League, wrote for The Beacher, and was a local radio personality and sportscaseter announcing Wolves football games.
He can be reached at email@example.com or 219-971-9546.