Those who look at issues from a big picture perspective had to be disappointed by the City-County Council's decision Monday night to raise county taxes by 65 percent.
If ever an issue deserved a timeout for further review, this was it.
Mayor Bart Peterson and a narrow majority of the City-County Council treated the income tax increase with a sense of urgency that was unnecessary considering the intense public interest in the proposal.
It is an important issue, but it did not have to be decided without a full airing of taxpayers' concerns. Many citizens who attended Monday's meeting were essentially ignored.
By negotiating an extension of the Aug. 1 deadline with the state, or by delaying the vote until next week, Peterson could have had more time to discuss his proposal with taxpayers. He would have also opened the door to suggestions from the expert panels being put together by Gov. Mitch Daniels. He might even have heard useful suggestions on how to reduce the size of the increases.
Rather than take full advantage of an exceptional opportunity to make long-needed reforms, the mayor and council rushed through a huge income tax increase to raise $90 million to cover public safety expenses.
In doing so, the mayor and council missed out on possible synergies with the state panels on the income tax and related issues. What other options or approaches could the city have used to address public safety challenges? What else could have been done to avoid an income tax hike that will hurt some as badly as the property tax hikes?
The Star's editors also have a couple of good suggestions at which the governor's newly-appointed commission might want to take a look. One is a suggestion the state "ban police and firefighters from serving on public boards that oversee their agency's budgets and operations." Better yet, why doesn't Indiana simply enforce its own constitution, which provides: "no person, charged with official duties under one of these departments, shall exercise any of the functions of another." An analysis I conducted after the May primary of the current crop of candidates for city-county council in both parties led me to conclude that the make-up of our council could easily become totally dominated by government workers. It is conceivable that at least 50% of the members after this November's election will consist of police officers, firefighters or other government employees. This has got to stop.
Secondly, the Star editorial writers suggest there be a study on the impact higher property taxes and income taxes in Marion Co. has on the migration of folks into the suburban counties. You don't have to study that problem. You can see it happening.
Matt Tully expresses his disapproval over the conduct of Monday night's city-county council meeting here. As for Tully's lack of blog postings lately, he explains he's taking a summer vacation while working on another project. "[M]y non-column time this summer is being dedicated to a project we hope will appear in the newspaper this September," he writes. As for Expresso, the last post there was made June 8 by Gary Varvel. The blog site used to be peppered with provocative posts by Star editorial writer RiShawn Biddle. What happened to Biddle? Does he still work for the Star? It's unusual for him to be so quiet.