Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Merritt In Government Reduction

Sen. James Merritt details his government reduction plan on the op/ed pages of the Star today, which he will pursue in the coming legislative session. Here's what his comprehensive plan includes:

  • Combine all township and airport fire departments into the Indianapolis Fire Department. The key element of the combined agency will be to institutionalize credentialing for fire department emergency personnel.
  • Stabilize the financial impact on citizens by freezing the fire levy at the 2008 level for three years.
  • Place the governance of all public safety services under the mayor of Indianapolis, as of 2011.
  • Eliminate the office of county coroner by constitutional amendment and replace it with a regional medical examiner system statewide, as of 2011.
  • Make the salaries the same for the Marion County sheriff and the Marion County prosecutor, as of 2011. Any additional income currently earned by the sheriff as a result of fees collected would be used instead to fund police pensions.
  • Eliminate the offices of township trustee and Town Board, and assign all their current duties to county agencies, including township assistance (formerly known as poor relief) services to the Marion County Welfare Department, as of 2011.
  • Establish a division of Small Claims Courts within the Marion County Superior Court System and maintain function and location within each township, as of 2011.
    Eliminate the office of township assessor and replace it with a statewide assessment system, as of 2011.
  • Combine the duties of the elected offices of Marion County treasurer, Marion County auditor and City of Indianapolis controller, as of 2011, and cross-train the staff.
    Impose a term limit of two four-year terms onto the office of the mayor of Indianapolis, grandfathering in the current mayor.
  • Increase citizen accountability for the City-County Council by eliminating the four at-large seats and reducing the total council to 25 community-based district seats, as of 2011.
  • Align the office of township constable with modern government practices through the implementation of professional credentialing and cost containment of salaries. This streamline measure will combine the township constables and the Marion County sheriff's civil sheriffs into a warrant officer court service within the Superior Courts. Constables will be required to have the customary training and credentialing for law enforcement officers with similar powers.

I like Merritt's idea of eliminating the four at-large seats on the council. His plan would reduce the number of council seats from 29 to 25. I've heard others suggest making the four at-large seats district seats. The idea of having at-large council seats always struck me as being anti-democratic. At-large seats were orginally contrived as a means of diluting the influence of minority voters, although 3 of the current 4 seats in Marion Co. are currently held by African-Americans.


Anonymous said...

The plan has _some_ good ideas, but is way too political. For starters, get rid of the constables. I have no idea what he would want to keep them. They make way too much money. Steamline the entire office just like he wants to streamline the township civil courts. Things need to go from township to countywide. Let the Sheriff deal with serving papers.

Then look at term limits for Indy mayor? Why not all mayors in the state? Last time I checked, the property tax issue affects the entire state, so these ideas need to be statewide. If they fail to pass, then let voters deal with sky high property taxes. Let them pay for what they want.

Anonymous said...

the term limits on the mayor is a WONDERFUL idea.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that after 17 years in office, Jim Merritt has decided to have an active voice in the future of our city.

Anonymous said...

Why not limit the terms of legislators Senator? I see more entrenched political hacks there than in any Mayors office. How about limiting yourself Senator.

Anonymous said...

Amen to legislative term limits. What a bunch of hack fools.

Wave ba-bye to trustees, Wilson--they're going the way of gas lights. There isn't a more wasteful office in government.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of term limits, but I have become a big fan of an independent redistricting commission, perhaps similar to what Iowa does. I don't really care how many terms a legislator or council member serves as long as its the voters that select the lawmakers instead of the lawmakers selecting their voters.

Wilson46201 said...

There used to be term limits on Indianapolis Mayor but during the lengthy GOP UniGov regime, this was removed by the Republicans in what was called at that time the "Hudnut-Forever Bill"...

garyj said...

There used to be term limits on Indianapolis Mayor but during the lengthy GOP UniGov regime, this was removed by the Republicans in what was called at that time the "Hudnut-Forever Bill"...

Wilson, this shows that Bart supports what Hudnut did. If Bill was such a rotten mayor, Bart would have had his boys and girls on the CCC reverse this ordinance.
2 consecutive terms is enough. If the elected person did such a good job, they could go back after they sit out a term.
Lets see how well it works for Bart to sit out the next term....

Anonymous said...


As far as your opinion that the four at-large seats dilute the minority vote, been there, done that--and lost. Baird v. City of Indianapolis, 976 F.2d 357 (7th Cir. 1992).

It's pretty clear that Merritt's proposal is all about Repubs seeking political advantage by eliminating the at-large seats, not about remedying minority vote dilution. Also, if he was only concerned with saving public dollars, why didn't he propose reducing the size of the Council to, say, 15 seats, all elected by district. I'll answer my own question. Because his proposal to eliminate the at-large seats is really all about gaining a partisan edge, not about good government or fiscal responsibility. It's his party, after all, that has consistently opposed finishing the unfinished political consolidations envisioned by the Unigov.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Bill, We had the complete opposite outcome in Springfield, Illinois where the federal courts threw out at-large election of councilors back in the 1980s when I was a resident there. Marion County used to elect its state legislators at-large as well. I don't believe any council members should be elected at large. I think what you're saying now, Bill, is you were opposed to at large election of councilors when there was no hope of Democrats winning them, and now that Democrats are winning them, you want to maintain the status quo. I don't know what Merritt's motives are, but I agree as a matter of principle that councilors should only be elected from neighborhood districts and not at large.

Anonymous said...

Gary, the Indiana General Assembly, not the CCC, approved the Hudnut forever bill. It was done to keep Hudnut from seeking another office. Republicans controlled both houses of the legislature at the time.

Oddly, Wilson is correct about this.