Saturday, July 21, 2007

Governor Daniels, What Were You Thinking?

Up to now, I've been extremely pleased with the responsiveness Gov. Daniels has shown to the property tax debacle. This is a mess he largely inherited, and he's seemed willing to use the opportunity to revolutionize the way we've been doing business. He understands the lack of accountability for undertaking major construction projects with virtually no public scrutiny is breaking the backs of property taxpayers. He understands the assessment process is broken and is in need of a major fix. And he seems to understand that the inherent unfairness of the property tax is threatening a way of life for many Hoosiers. Then, he made a big mistake. He decided we need another study of the same problems which have been studied numerous times over the decades. And who does he pick to head the commission charged with studying the problems? A former governor who had 8 years in state government and more than a decade of experience running South Bend as its mayor to make a change. And a Yale-educated Supreme Court Chief Justice who has no business attempting to re-write our property tax laws because it's his job to interpret our laws, not write or administer them. His participation in any case coming before the Court is crucial. A recusal prompted by his role on this commission is not in the best interests of the Court on which he's so honorably served in the past.

Today, the governor added five more names to the list of people who will sit on this commission and look at ways to reform property taxes and streamline local government. His choices for this task could not have been worse. He chose:

  • Former Indiana Secretary of State Sue Anne Gilroy. She's a nice lady who dutifully served as Secretary of State for 8 years, but she now earns a living running a not-for-profit foundation. Hint to Gov. Daniels, NFPs don't pay taxes.
  • Former IU President Adam Herbert. He is perhaps the worst university president at IU in recent memory. He has lived in Indiana but a short time and his experience is limited to drawing a huge public salary and spending lots of public funds. It hardly qualifies him for this task.
  • Ian Rolland, a retired Lincoln Financial CEO. Other than meeting the certified list of Who's Who among Indiana elites, what does he bring to the commission?
  • Louis Mahern, professional politician and lobbyist. He's also responsible for heading up our local library board, which has saddled taxpayers with tens of millions in costs for building an absolutely unnecessary central library. As Matt Tully once noted, he saw his role on the library board as taking care of Democrats with jobs and contracts. If there is any negative connotation you can associate with a career politician/lobbyist, Mahern is dripping with it.
  • John Stafford, director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW. Stafford is probably the only person appointed to the Commission that has any substantive understanding of our property tax system. He also spent many years lobbying the legislature on these very issues. Does he offer any new approaches?

The makeup of this Commission leaves me to conclude that someone over at a certain law firm which seems to control every major decision of this administration sat down and drew up a list of people it could easily manipulate to write a report suited to its self-serving liking, faxed it over to Daniels' office and after glancing at it for a few brief moments, Gov. Daniels instructed Jan Jankowski to issue a press release announcing the names. Is that what really happened? Who knows? But, Gov. Daniels, you should know we are insulted by this narrow list of folks to whom you have assigned this great task. There's nobody on that commission who offers fresh thinking and the independence of judgment this task requires. Would you please just do this one thing? On this issue of such great importance, stop listening to the folks at that law firm and start listening to real folks who are capable of offering you advice untainted by a desire to serve their own self-interests. This issue is just too important.

25 comments:

Doug said...

Responsiveness? Daniels has 3 legislative sessions under his belt, and I don't think I've heard him say "boo" about property taxes before this month. Maybe he's been diligently working on this for a long time now, and I've missed it, but I don't think so.

And that's not just a partisan jab. I think Senator Kenley deserves a lot of credit for his efforts at trying to get some of this fixed.

Anonymous said...

I was extremely dissapointed when I saw the list. How about getting a group of people together who aren't generally part of the problem???

Wilson46201 said...

What is this mysterious law firm playing Your Man Mitch like a marionette? Baker & Daniels? Bingham-Summers? Krieg-DeVault? Bosma's law office? Inquiring minds want to know!!!

Advance Indiana said...

If you have to ask, . . . .

Advance Indiana said...

Doug, he has been an advocate for overhauling and streamlining local government from day one. And he did cause fits for schools by trying to put the brakes on so many new and unnecessary school construction projects. My comment about his resposiveness is in the context of this latest mess. You are right in the sense that other issues have had a higher priority to date, most notably DST and Major Moves.

Anonymous said...

There is no IUPUI-Fort Wayne -- it's known as IPFW. fyi

Advance Indiana said...

Thanks for the correction, anon.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to the governor regarding this "crisis", it should be noted that absolutely no one could quantify the problem. Hell, the best estimate was given days before the legislature ended. Bauer got his rebate though.

Any hoosier knows that change around here doesn't happen until there is a crisis. And then it's typically f'd up by the legislature to restart the cyle to crisis all over. See you in a few years.

Anonymous said...

Kind of like Ice Miller pulling the strings of the city...

Anonymous said...

Let's see, John Hammond picked Gilroy because she's a fellow Depauw alum. Lacy Johnson picked Herbert because he's black. Tom Downs picked Mahern, the guy he onced wanted to be Indianapolis mayor. Phil Genetos picked Stafford because he can understand the more technical stuff. And Fred Biesecker picked Ian Rolland because he could.

Anonymous said...

The study commission's purpose is to make recommendations to see
to what extent local governmental
units can be downsized. The
assumption on his part is that centralized merged governmental
units always save money. Thus, if you're a rural school corporation
or a twonship, watch out because some or maybe all of your functions will be taken over
by someone else. The committee's function isn't to deal directly with recommendations regarding real estate property taxes. This is the end of home rule concept.

Anonymous said...

Funny how Mahern was not president or not on the library board when to central library fiasco took place, But a Republican appointee was indicted for his roll in this mess.

Anonymous said...

The executive branch of government means just that. The office of Governor exists to execute the law created by the legislature. It's not the governor's job to create law to solve the property tax problem. That is the job of the legislature. Any kind of commission Daniels sets up to study this is just blathering intended to provide a show for the media. What is the legislature doing about this? If they don't have a committee set up to work on this problem, nothing is going to get done. And if they do, why isn't Advance Indiana reporting it to us?

Anonymous said...

The first 8:20 is spot-on.

All these appointees will make Ice Miler's suite at the Dome a little crowded this fall, dontcha think? With these "new" appointees to jostle around, wherever will Carl Drummer sit? And his posse?

Here's another take on the co-chairs:

No locally-elected official can do one thing about the property tax mechanism. It's a state function. So no mayor can change the system if he wants to. And the Chief...well...hasn't he always just loved those robes? So fetching. Tra-la tra-la. Spin, Randy, spin...

Kudos to Sen Kenly for trying. Ditto to Mitch for rolling up his sleeves--however late--and trying.

But:

Any commission with a Mahern on it has two Maherns too many. Enough already. And Sue Ann...damn...I guess they needed to meet the controlable-dame quota.

But why don't we save a lot of trouble, and a lot of side-stepping, and just appoint the whole effing Ice Miller firm to run all of government.

They can do it like they advised the Lawrence water utility. Through Scrivener's notes. That worked out really well.

More nominees, if this is a controlable group anyway: Rep. Jeff Espich, cause God knows he's not been part of the problem for, oh, 30 years; dig Up Wayne Townsend or some other big farmer; how about some of the Water Company cabal--a Moses is surely available, or maybe even a SerVaas/Durham; Al or Kathy ubbard or Mark Miles...pick 'em.

Anonymous said...

Sen. Luke Kenley, in my opinion, is the only sharp knife in the drawer. He knows what the problems are and he knows how to correct them.
Unfortunately, politics get in the way and people like Kenley are tosses aside and rebuked.
I can personally attest that Kenley never stopped working on solving the property tax problem.
When he talks people need to listen.

Anonymous said...

This is triangulation as part of the runup to the re-election campaign. He's co-opting the Dems. I don't think Daniels is really all that much a genius....it's just that Hoosiers are "low hanging fruit" when it comes to easy pickins. After all this is a group of people who bought the RV schtick along with the cap and Dockers. Bush's budget director a good ole boy? Yeah right.

Anonymous said...

A camel is a horse put together by a committee.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the RV thing was a charade. But it worked. Low-hanging fruit, indeed.

It is exactly what a governor should be doing. Especially in the leadership vacuum among our three Indiana branches of govt.:

The Judiciary is run by the Chief Justice, a decent fellow but by no means a legal giant.

The Legislative branch was run by Sen. Garton for too damned long. Now, power is kind of shared by the Speaker, who's a government employee and a goof, and the Senate President. Collectively, the entire legislative leadership might share a brain and a half.

The Executive is led by Mitch. Who bamboozled all of us into thinking he's a good ole' boy.

While he may enjoy power, I don't get the sense he cares if he's there forever. Ergo the Geist residence.

So if the other two branches of government abdicate serious consideration of government's role in our lives, and the taxes required to pay for it, via court cases or legislation, have at it Mitch.

He can't do any worse.

That said, this Commission is stacked from the get-go. I think I know the result already, because the chairs are both strong personalities:

They'll recommend less government, and abolishing the property tax system.

Anonymous said...

To all the people who have posted on this topic I had to write and say, THANK YOU! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts on the subject. I say, more of this and less of the other. I know I am not adding to the topic of this thread but I appreciate the discussion.

Anonymous said...

It's a decent exchange of ideas mostly because, there's only one Wilson post.

Wilson46201 said...

I've been too involved this week with Black Expo to be concerned with the anonymous nattering nabobs of negativity hurling personal barbs and sneers ... some bitter and spiteful folk want to detract and distract from civilized discussion into the mud of sniping and smearing informed commenters who dont conceal their identities under a brown paper bag or the cowardly label of "anonymous"..

Anonymous said...

It wasn't a sneer.

It was a statement of fact.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Hoosiers are low hangin fruit and rubes in this whole matter. Let's be honest. In the 21st century, why do we elect coroners who have no medical experience? Why do we have local township assessors who have very little training? Why do we have over 1008 township trustees doling out money, when a centralized office in many rural counties could do it better? Why are there school districts with declining enrollments next to those building like crazy when the simple change or a boundary would solve both problems? Why are some school districts hobbling along with 3 elementaries when they can only afford to have one?

POLITICS and POWER... no one who has it wants to give it up. And with change-adverse Hoosiers, it's only compounded. Let's really shake things up and get a fresh look. The Constitution is 150 years old. Maybe it's time for some real amendments instead of messing with marriage.

Bearfire said...

Daniels is in an unusual political position. His political strenth derives from the weakness of the opposition. He can push through unpopular reforms. Some of them will quite likely reap some considerable positive outcomes. When he moves on to his next gig, (I always thought his Governorship was an experiment in innovation he'd be able to point to later on)he can say, "Look at what we did in Indiana." But, he's doing some real harm as well. For example he has the Indiana Community Mental Health Center system right on the edge of the cliff. He privatized some of the reimbursement and those that won the contracts went for months without paying the providers. Admittedly, the system is in need for some reform, but this clearly was intended to hollow out the system. The fact remains there is a very vulnerable population in need of services. At the level of political rhetoric he makes it sound so appealing. This group which does not have any real political consituency is going to have a rough time. The Community Mental Health Centers have pretty much rolled over. They've been in a stance of learned helplessness since the early years of Evan Bayh.

Russ said...

Having Joker Joe lead the commission to study property taxes is like having Lee Harvey Oswald lead the Warren Commission.