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Future at stake with government reform plan

I didn’t realize our local government was in such shambles, that is, not until I read the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform, which was recently released by the state.
The 46-page report points out how outdated county government is throughout the Hoosier state and talks about streamlining local government. Joe Kernan, the former mayor of South Bend who served as lieutenant government under the late Frank O’Bannon and succeeded him as governor, and Randall T. Shepard, chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court and former assistant to the mayor of Evansville, chaired the commission which prepared the report.
I have the utmost respect for these two men, and I appreciate that Gov. Mitch Daniels compiled a commission that was representative of our two major political parties.
However, I am baffled that Daniels appears to have taken Hoosiers’ displeasure with our government and placed the blame on our local officials.
The first sentence in the report says: ‘At a moment when public anxiety about the cost and competence of government is extraordinarily high, the Governor of our state has asked us to exam the structure of local government in Indiana.’
I’m all about saving money and completing tasks in the most efficient manner; I am not supportive of change for change’s sake, though.
In the six months that the commission looked at how to address this perturbation of Hoosiers, they learned that we pay for more than 10,000 officeholders and residents have an ‘extremely difficult time maneuvering’ through the labyrinth of county government, which sometimes overlaps.
Nowhere in the report did I read that residents have to be held at least somewhat accountable for educating themselves on how things work.
In its research, the commission held public forums. But instead of reaching out to all Hoosiers, the sessions were held in large cities: Evansville, Gary, Fort Wayne, New Albany, South Bend, and in place of Indianapolis, I guess, Franklin. Sure, those persons who reside in rural areas could have traveled to these locations, provided they even knew about them. Often, news sources in less populated areas keep their news items more local.
I won’t take the time to comment on all 27 points the report specifically mentions, but there were some that cry out for comment.
One recommendation is that the state structure a county government that is led by a single county executive and a stronger county council, thus eliminating our township trustees. Commission members also believe that ‘only elected officials should have power to levy taxes’ and that ‘all spending, including school spending, should be subject to more rigorous examination by elected officials.’
I’ve voted in every election possible since I turned 18, and I recall that township trustees and school trustees are on the ballot.
Also on the subject of schools, it is recommended that Indiana’s school districts ‘be large enough to gather sufficient resources to educate our children for 21st century life.’
Bigger is not always better. Why not look again at the No Child Left Behind program? I want each child to receive the best education possible, but the classroom structure being used now to accomplish this is not the solution. What about making sure rural areas have access to high-speed Internet, where the world awaits at our fingertips?
Another point made in the report is that some elected positions (i.e., assessor, sheriff and coroner) require few, if any, technical or professional expertise. So they recommend that these positions be appointed.
Give the voters some credit. If they choose someone who is less qualified than another candidate, then shame on them. But often they elect someone who can get the job done.
I hope the state gives serious consideration to the report before mandating any changes at the local level. Take the time to read the report then contact your state officials with your thoughts. This is our future. We should have a say in it.

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