Thursday, January 19, 2006

South Bend to join Eastern time zone.

Today's South Bend Tribune reports on a U.S. Department of Transportation ruling putting the city and its environs in the Eastern time zone. In July and November posts, I commented on the ongoing political debate about how Indiana's 92 counties should be divided among the Eastern and Central time zones. For the past several decades, most of the Hoosier State has observed "Indiana East Time," a Solomonic compromise which enabled residents to spend half the year on Eastern time and half on Central time without having to worry about changing their clocks. IET will disappear in a few months, and after a great deal of controversy the federal government is releasing its final decisions on what time zones the counties that have observed IET will be placed in. The time zone issue was particularly contentious in South Bend-centered St. Joseph County. Many St. Joseph County residents look ninety miles west to Chicago for a sense of cultural and social definition, so it made sense to most local officials and many ordinary citizens for the county to become part of the Central time zone. At the same time, others observed that South Bend and the city of Elkhart in the neighboring county of the same name essentially constitute a cohesive metropolitan area with an integrated local economy; it made sense for St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties to stay together, and Elkhart wanted to be in the Eastern time zone. Both sides had a point, and in some sense both were right. However, only one could prevail. Yesterday's DOT decision putting St. Joseph County in the Eastern time zone paradoxically serves local interests while spurning local opinion. Though I retain a nostalgic hankering for Indiana East Time, I'm glad the time zone controversy has come to an apparent conclusion. AMDG.


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