Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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April 29, 2012

Republican commissioner candidates differ on outlooks

GOSHEN — In an era of national hyper politics that has trickled down to the local level, Republican Mike Yoder got the most unique question during a candidate forum Saturday at the Goshen Chamber of Commerce.

“Are you a socialist?”

The question was submitted in writing from an audience member who suggested some of Yoder’s opponents are making the claim.

Yoder, an incumbent Elkhart County Commissioner for eight years, denied the charge, adding that he believes it’s being fueled by a small political faction.

“My anchor is firmly planted in conservative Republican principals,” Yoder said.

“The boat that anchor is attached to floats in a pretty big ocean, though,” he said, adding that he represents all factions of the county, including Amish who generally do not vote. He went on to say the county has serious issues that need to be addressed.

Yoder’s opponent in the race, Darryl Riegsecker, ignored the question and instead picked up on Yoder’s concern that the county needs to address various difficult issues in the community including youth-related problems.

Riegsecker said there are many good youth organizations in the county, but sometimes those groups have trouble transporting kids to the youth centers. Getting kids involved in youth groups, he said, can help them stay out of trouble.

The two District 2 candidates differed sharply on a handful of issues, including a countywide education initiative and views on a comprehensive zoning proposal.

Riegsecker, who is in his first term as a County Council member, is also a former Goshen City Council member. He worked for a long time for Smoker Craft in New Paris and now works in real estate. He lives in Goshen.

Yoder is a dairy farmer from Middlebury.

Riegsecker said he doesn’t think the county‘s existing comprehensive plan needs to be revamped. He said he’s open to amending it if needed, but didn’t see anything specifically that he would change.

A proposed comprehensive plan was shelved last year after complaints about land use policy arose.

Yoder said the effort to revamp the zoning policy started with a lot of support, but was politicized and hurt by lies and misrepresentations.

He said the existing zoning plan is severely outdated.

“You don’t add a $100,000 addition to a house that’s got a really bad foundation,” Yoder said.

Yoder admitted the plan needs more work before it’s ready for further consideration.

Yoder predicted Riegsecker would do nothing to support the plan.

Riegsecker said if Yoder is not re-elected, he may no longer be a driving force behind the plan. Yoder downplayed his role in the plan.

Education

They differed over the Horizon Project, an educational advisory group. The county has helped bring together the initiative that includes representatives of five school districts, the county and the business sector, to work on expanding educational opportunities in the county.

The county does not currently fund the organization.

“I personally do not think it should be funded by county government. We should not raise taxes for the Horizon Project,” Riegsecker said. “I’m not 100 percent sure that county government should be involved with the Horizon Project to begin with. I think it should be more of a private organization.”

Yoder said he’s unsure if the county should begin funding the program, but said he believes the group is sorely needed.

“There is no way this community is going to be successful in the 21st century unless we have a better trained and educated work force,” Yoder said.

Riegsecker said money would be better spent on roads.

Both candidates agreed more funding is needed for road work and that the C.R. 17 plan is a top issue.

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