Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. spoke to over 300 business leaders, chamber of commerce members, and residents of Hammond, IN at the 2015 Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at Dynasty Banquet Hall on Friday, January 28. The event was highlighted by a hour-long Q&A session that begun with McDermott’s commitment to becoming the first four-term mayor in the history of the City of Hammond.
“I have the best job in life,” McDermott told the applauding guests of the luncheon. “And that is why I am running for a fourth term. This job never ceases to amaze me.”
But as soon as the applause came to an end, McDermott began to tackle some of the more pressing issues facing Hammond and Northwest Indiana. In particular, the South Shore Expansion and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA).
McDermott stressed that while the RDA - in its tenth-year of a 10-year plan to boost transportation opportunities and strengthen economic development in NWI - has brought some great additions to NWI’s economy and park system, his hope is that the RDA can eventually bring a regional bus system to the area that can help bring more pedestrian and commercial traffic to Hammond and surrounding areas.
“Do I support the RDA overall, though? Yes, I do,” said McDermott. “It’s been good to us.”
On the topic of the South Shore Expansion, a project originally intended to be funded by the RDA but is requiring an additional investment of $27 million over a 30-year period from the city of Hammond, McDermott stressed that it is an issue that should be brought to the attention of its residents.
“Overall, [the South Shore expansion] is a $600 million expansion to the residents of Lake County,” McDermott stated. “If we’re going to spend $600 million on this project, then why not ask residents of Lake County how they feel about the project first?”
McDermott cited other cities in Northwest Indiana, such as Munster and Valparaiso, that have had public referendums for projects that are much less expensive, and feels that he owes it to the people to get their feedback on the expansion before spending their money.
“I was hired to do a job,” McDermott concluded. “And that is to do what is best for the residents of Hammond.”
The Mayor bookended his session by sharing his vision for not only Hammond, but of Northwest Indiana as whole. That is, in the cities and towns of NWI all coming together to work toward the prosperity of the area.
“If all the cities in Lake County came together, that would be 480,000 people,” McDermott told guests at the luncheon. “That’s a city that is bigger than Miami. We could be a power. [NWI working in unison] is our future.”
And McDermott concluded, “I would be happy to lead the way.”