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 Erasing township government, with its outdated and wasteful structure, also is a key to holding down property taxes.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.