|Central time proponents shine light
Path of the sun, not politics, should dictate which zone Indiana falls into, some say
By Mary Beth Schneider
This should have been Ohio's problem.
"I'd just be tickled pink to give it to them," said Rose Bastin, owner of Rosie's Diner in Hendricksville, near Bloomington.
The problem -- which is most everyone's in Indiana now -- is where to draw the boundary separating the Central and Eastern time zones.
Way back when the time zone boundaries were first drawn in 1918, the Central-Eastern line bisected Ohio. All of Indiana was confined to the Central zone -- right, many Hoosiers insist, where God intended the state to be.
Now, though, the Central time zone line is on Indiana's western border. And with Indiana preparing to move to daylight-saving time, the state has asked for federal hearings on whether that time zone line should be moved eastward again.
Those hearings -- which have not yet been scheduled by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the agency that regulates time zones -- could be just as contentious as the legislative fight this spring to adopt daylight-saving time, pushed by Gov. Mitch Daniels.
The debate pits Hoosiers who believe the time zone should more accurately reflect the path of the sun against those who say the state's economy would benefit from closer ties to the East Coast.
Following the sun
Bastin was a big supporter of Daniels. Still is, she said.
But she's not a supporter of daylight-saving time, especially if Indiana stays mostly in the Eastern time zone. Currently, 82 counties are in the Eastern zone, with 10 counties in northwestern and southwestern Indiana in the Central zone.
Bastin is afraid that daylight-saving time -- particularly in the Eastern time zone -- will hurt her business. People, she said, will eat later if the sun doesn't set until later, and she closes at 7 p.m.
"I'd have to lay off employees," she said.
Staying open later is not an option for Bastin, who already gets up at 3:30 a.m. to bake that day's pies and get ready for the breakfast crowd.
A regular among her breakfast patrons is Jeff Sagarin, a Bloomington math wizard who does computer sports rankings for USA Today and others.
Sagarin has done computations of where Indiana should be, and there's only one right answer, he said: Central time.
Sagarin's so sure of what the time ought to be in Indiana that he won't be swayed no matter where the federal government draws the line.
"I'm living by Central time," he said.
He keeps his watch on Central time, and wants Bastin to put up a clock with the "real time" in her diner, too.
It's simple, Sagarin said. Planet Earth is divided into 360 degrees of longitude from east to west, with 24 time zones each supposedly 15 degrees wide.
St. Louis, with a longitude of about 90 degrees west, should be the center of the Central time zone. Indianapolis, at a longitude of about 86 degrees west, should be there, too, and not lumped with New York, which sits at a longitude of about 74 degrees west.
Martin Burkhead, a retired astronomy professor at Indiana University, agrees.
He recognized which time zone Indiana should be in, he said, "just by looking out my window at noon."
At noon, the sun should be straight overhead, right?
Not unless Indiana is on Central Standard Time.
Under the state's adherence to Eastern Standard Time, which currently mirrors Central Daylight Saving Time, the sun is overhead in Indianapolis today at 12:50 p.m., according to the U.S. Naval Observatory's astronomical application department.
Under Eastern Daylight Saving Time, which is what most of Indiana will observe next summer unless the time zones are changed, the sun would be over Indianapolis today at 1:50 p.m.
If Indianapolis were on Central Standard Time, the sun would be overhead today just 10 minutes before noon.
"Quite frankly, I think the time we have now works OK," Burkhead said, adding he is "really not looking forward" to Eastern Daylight Time, when the sun will be overhead at nearly 2 p.m.
But, he said, he doesn't think this debate has much to do with where the sun is.
"I think it's strictly a political issue," he said.
The bottom line?
Daniels pushed for daylight-saving time by arguing that ending the time confusion in Indiana, one of only three states that had not adopted the twice-annual time change, would help boost the state's economy.
Businesses both east and west of the state would no longer struggle to figure out what time it is in Indiana. Some business leaders insist some companies won't consider establishing Indiana operations in part because of confusion over the time.
During his campaign for governor, Daniels said Central time would make the most sense for most of Indiana. He did not, however, make a recommendation to the Department of Transportation on where the time zone line should be.
Most business leaders say that the Eastern time zone is where they want to stay. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce said a survey of its members showed a majority prefers the Eastern zone, saying New York is the natural center of business.
They might prevail. Centers of commerce, not the position of the sun, most often determine where the federal government draws time zone lines.
"We had very, very strong feedback on the advantages of Eastern Daylight Time over Central Daylight Time," said Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. "It should be Eastern for the 82 counties."
St. Joseph County decided not to wait for the federal hearings to begin finding out what people there want. A town hall meeting held recently in South Bend found that most people who attended want to move to Central time.
House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, thinks those views could sway the federal government to move the Central zone as far east as his home county.
Cameron Carter, president of TechPoint, a technology trade association representing about 400 businesses, most in Indiana, said Eastern is the only time zone that makes sense for Indiana.
"There is no argument for the Central time zone if you look at economic links, community links and where people do business," Carter said. "The majority of the state does business and trade with the Eastern time zone."
The debate begins
Sagarin argues with that.
The Sunbelt states to Indiana's west are where future markets lie, he said.
"They're hitching up to a dying horse," he said of businesses looking eastward. "This country's center of population is constantly moving west."
David Prerau used to work for the federal Department of Transportation, and said he was involved there in the biggest study ever made of daylight-saving time. He became so interested in it that he wrote a book about it: "Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time."
Indiana provided him with some of his best anecdotes -- and continues to give him fodder for a new edition with the battles over daylight-saving time and the upcoming battle over the time zone lines.
In 1968 and 1969, he said, the transportation department held a year-and-a-half of hearings in Indiana that ultimately resulted in the current boundaries.
Prerau agrees with those who say by rights Indiana should be in the Central zone, along with Michigan, Kentucky and half of Ohio. But, he said, "in general, the federal government tries to do what local people want, within reason."
The last time, for instance, that the transportation department changed a time zone line was in 2003, when three South Dakota counties were moved from the Mountain zone to Central. The change was so lacking in controversy that no hearings were held.
Prerau is expecting more fireworks in Indiana than that.
"Indiana's had the biggest controversy (over time) anywhere in the nation," he said. "It sounds like it's still a mess."