Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Star Urges Support For Kernan-Shepard Commission Report

Star editorial writers fully embrace the recommendations of the Kernan-Shepard Commission report on local government reform in an editorial today. "The reform plan offers the best chance to achieve a long-delayed but much-needed overhaul of local government," the editorial reads. "The opportunity must not be wasted." The editorial offers four reasons why the recommendations should be enacted into law:

First, because the plan provides the best hope for improving the efficiency of local governments through economies of scale and less duplication of services. The commission wants to cut the number of local government units by 37 percent. Tax dollars could be shifted from bolstering bureaucracy to improving services.

Second, the 27 proposed reforms include several essential to cutting property taxes, including shifting the costs of children's services and trial courts to the state. Erasing township government, with its outdated and wasteful structure, also is a key to holding down property taxes.

Third, the plan would make the local decision-making process more transparent. Only elected leaders could raise taxes. Decisions on spending, including school bonds, would undergo more thorough review. A single countywide elected official could be held accountable, along with the county council, for most decisions on taxes and spending.

Fourth, the reforms would encourage more public involvement. School board elections would shift from the May primary to November, when voter turnout is higher. Municipal elections would move to an even-year cycle, when high-profile state and national races inspire voters to pay closer attention to politics. Better public participation is vital to holding elected leaders accountable for their decisions.

The editorial hits the nail on the head on all four points, but its going to take more than a newspaper editorial to convince lawmakers to bite the bullet and do what is right. The nearly one-half of elected officials who will see the jobs eliminated in Indiana aren't going to give up their fiefdoms without a fight. A reaction in today's Star from one township trustee is too funny to pass up. "Billie Caldwell, a Noblesville Township trustee in Hamilton County since 1979, worried that appointments would resurrect a system where patronage rather than qualifications land people jobs, the Star reports. “The people that are in place in most of the townships, including assessors, do this because they feel loyalty to the people that elect them,” Caldwell said. Give me a break. Are townships not the ultimate cesspool of patronage and cronyism in Indiana?

Naturally, the sheriffs, led by one of the nation's most overpaid public officials, Marion Co. Sheriff Frank Anderson, plan to fight a recommendation to eliminate their jobs along with other constitutionally-provided elected county offices. "Anderson said elections provide the 'ultimate review of performance in office,'" the Star reports. "I don't consider myself a politician, but I have to go through the political process because people should have that review," Anderson said. "Calling sheriffs the first elected officials in this country, Anderson traced the practice to 1215 and the Magna Carta, the British legal document that limited the rights of kings and formed a framework for modern democracy." And they had debtor prisons back in those days too, but we've long since given up that archaic and inhumane system.

9 comments:

Melyssa said...

For what it is worth, I'm euphoric about the Commission's recommendations and want them implemented ASAP.

I would also like to see studies commissioned by more than one think tank, including Cato, to project realistic expectations as to how much the implementation of these reforms will save Indiana's people.

While we are at it, Indiana's citizens deserve full disclosure and transparency of the CAFR.

We might just find out there is enough money to eliminate property tax without raising other taxes.

In fact, I predict it.

Anonymous said...

This is truly a great day for Indiana. We have the blue prints to lower taxes!

It is amazing how we have so many useless and unnecessary layers of government in Indiana, that, when eliminated, will save billions of dollars (and eliminate a lot of patronage).

I hope the preparations for an amendment to our state constitution start immediately!

Anonymous said...

Most of what they proposed will be great. I would exempt sheriffs and prosecutors from the county wide executive, because we might just have need to arrest that SOB as well.... but then we do have chiefs of police appointed by the mayor of cities, right?

Anonymous said...

OT...
garyj has an interesting post about Jacob Perry. What did you do to make him mad?

garyj said...

How did I get posted under the "Kernan-Shepard Report"?

Actually, I'm more impressed that SOMEONE, besides Scott, actually reads my blog!

Anonymous said...

Now if only they will do it.

Anonymous said...

And they had debtor prisons back in those days too, but we've long since given up that archaic and inhumane system.

Yes, and now we have bankrupted our country! Had we kept the debtor prisons, maybe we would have had generation after generation that figured it was OK to spend money that wasn't there.

Anonymous said...

6:28, it's been almost 90 minutes since you posted that ridiculous comment, and haven't asked for it to be removed.

It's sensless, callous and it disregards/rewrites history.

Kinda sad, too, that folks are out there who still believe in that kind of archaic thinking.

Anonymous said...

Kinda sad, too, that folks are out there who still believe in that kind of archaic thinking.

I agree. Of course since we don't jail people for their debts, just take their property, I guess you won't be upset when China starts physically taking our land since they hold so much of our debt.