Fight against political cronyism, for state’s natural resources

I don’t use the word evil very often. Bad, ill-advised, unfortunate, but rarely evil. Yet here’s a case worthy of that strong adjective.

A pavilion at the Indiana Dunes State Park, on the shore of Lake Michigan in Porter County, is in considerable disrepair. The Department of Natural Resources wants to restore the facility. A private firm, Pavilion Partners LLC, proposes placing a fine dining restaurant on the second floor of the pavilion, plus adding a conference and banquet facility, to make this state asset more usable throughout the year.

To do this they require a three-way (beer, wine and liquor) alcoholic beverage license from the state. No booze equals no concerts, wedding parties or corporate events.

Without the alcohol permit, the park would have only an modernized facility for sun and surf bathers, hikers and other visitors to a glorious locale. The old time, pristine virtues of a state park would again (excuse the expression) trump aggressive commercialism.

This proposal has not passed any local or state agency empowered to approve it. However, Chuck Williams, the leading figure battling for this project, is the former chairman of the Porter County Republican Party.

He knows people downstate in the madhouse of representative government prepared to railroad approval for the liquor license.

Now, two virtually identical bills are before the legislature, both authored by elected representatives who do not live within 100 miles of the Dunes. Sen. James Merritt (R-Marion and Hamilton counties) offers Senate bill 188 while Rep. Sean Eberhart (R-Shelby, Bartholomew and Hancock counties) authored House resolution 1247.

Sen. Merritt’s bill requires and exempts; it commands. It overrides local investigation and quota restrictions, while dismissing the character of the applicant and negates questions of location. It opens every state park to undesirable and unwanted invasion by commercial interests.

Once again, calculated state paternalism preempts local intent, local control and public sentiment. These bills are evidence of the irresponsibility and insularity of our General Assembly, and an insult to those few elected legislators who honor their commitment to public service.

It may be too late to stop this legislative juggernaut. If that is true, I apologize for not addressing this issue sooner.

Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Send comments to