By Michelle L. Quinn
What started as a positive pep talk on the state of government turned into a frank discussion of the sequester and how U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky thinks it's going to shake out.
Visclosky, the Gary Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon keynote speaker, said because steel remains the anchor of Northwest Indiana he voted "no" to trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. The Department of Defense also changed a decree that requires steel armor to be poured and finished in the U.S. -- instead of just finished -- through his efforts.
"It's not going to radically change anything tomorrow morning, but it is a start," he said to a packed room.
A report by the American Society of Civil Engineers states that America's infrastructure continues to deteriorate, with a $3.6 trillion shortfall in its investment. Two trillion dollars can be covered, but the remaining $1.6 trillion will leave a huge gap that can't be overcome.
"There's a bridge over the Kankakee River where only one truck or one car can cross at a time," Visclosky said. "That's a waste of money in the future."
Asked about the political climate in Washington, Visclosky said he's by nature an optimistic person. But what's happening now paints a very dim picture.
"I hope I'm wrong but I think things will continue to deteriorate for a year," he said. "Back in December of last year, I would have said no one in their right mind would allow the sequestration would happen.
"I was wrong."
Visclosky has been back to the area several times since the sequestration and feels that until it affects more and more people directly, it'll take another year before people demand change.
Still, he remains hopeful and said things in Northwest Indiana are just as hopeful. The Gary/Chicago International Airport runway expansion has much to do with that, as did the Marquette Plan.
Whiting stands as another great example.
"The mayor (Joseph Stahura) told me recently that there will be $100 million in investment off (away from) the lake," he said. "There will be new businesses in Whiting, and most -- if not all -- will be entrepreneurs. Young people are moving into Whiting."