Indiana County Government: There When You Need It

Date of Record: 12/05/08 12:36

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Content <DIV>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV align=center><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"><STRONG>Indiana County Government: There When You Need It.</STRONG></SPAN></DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"><STRONG></STRONG></SPAN>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV align=center><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">By David Bottorff</SPAN></DIV> <DIV align=center><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">Executive Director</SPAN></DIV> <DIV align=center><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">Association of Indiana Counties</SPAN></DIV><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"></SPAN> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"></SPAN>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">Taxpayers should be wary of efforts to eliminate county elected government officials and </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">replace elected positions with appointed people. If it comes down to democracy vs. </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">appointed bureaucracy, the choice seems abundantly clear: democracy. A commission </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">appointed by the Governor to find efficiencies in government recommends doing away </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">with many county elected officials. The report has some positive recommendations but </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">eliminating the opportunity for taxpayers to serve their communities is not one of them. </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">One size or form of government does not fit all communities.</SPAN></DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"></SPAN>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">Framers of Indiana's Constitution designed county government to carry out state laws </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">and policies. To create a balance of power between state government and the citizens </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">throughout the state, the designers of the State Constitution believed voters should </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">directly elect people from their county to administer state laws. Why should that be </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">changed? No evidence has been produced that appointed people will do a better job than </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">elected people. In 1851 it would have been easy to allow the state to appoint people in </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">each county to administer state laws. However, framers of the State Constitution must </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">have been concerned about too much power being concentrated in state government or in </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">the hands of too few people.</SPAN></DIV><B> <P align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">Evolving Local Government</SPAN></P></B> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">Supporters of the elimination of county elected officials often claim that the local </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">government structure of 1851 has not evolved, but clearly it has evolved. The functions </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">of the county officeholders change every time the General Assembly completes a session. </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">At one time, townships were in charge of schools and roads; now school boards and </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">counties handle those services. County councils were created because the General </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">Assembly believed county commissions had too much power. What should change is the </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">proliferation of sub-county units and non-elected boards with tax and spending authority. </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">Some progress was made on this effort during the 2008 session of the General Assembly. </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">However, non-elected boards have flourished in recent decades, creating a wide range of </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">property tax rates within a county and varying levels of service. Many services </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">performed by sub-county units could be done more uniformly and efficiently on a </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">county-wide basis, implemented by elected and accountable officeholders.</SPAN></DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"></SPAN>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">Elected officials directly responsible to the voters are much more likely to look out for </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">the best interest of taxpayers than non-elected persons or boards. County government </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">officials include nearly every aspect of society: current and former business owners, </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">farmers, teachers and employees with a variety of backgrounds. In general, county </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">elected officials are concerned citizens who want to contribute or give something back to </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">their communities. Advocates of a centralized more bureaucratic government with </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">minimal elected officials ignore the fact that county government requires teamwork and </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">consensus building, a primary goal of democracy. Moving to appointed positions limits </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">the ability of voters to select their local leaders and limits the ability of citizens to serve </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">their community.</SPAN></DIV><B> <P align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">Cost Savings by replacing elected officials with appointed people?</SPAN></P></B> <DIV><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">The Shepard-Kernan report on local government has some proposals that will create </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">efficiencies, save money or reduce property taxes by shifting funding to the state. Some </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">of the proposals were enacted during the 2008 session of the General Assembly with the </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">support of county elected officials. However, eliminating elected officials and replacing </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">them with appointed people will make county government less accountable and more </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">expensive. Appointed people usually demand a higher salary than people who are </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">elected. Indiana county government provides the basic services for citizens: criminal </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">justice, elections, land records, tax administration, economic development and much </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">more. Citizens should be wary of attempts to take power away from them and give it to a </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">centralized government with limited access points. County elected officials are there </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">when you need them and county government is there when you need it. They work </SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma">directly for you. Why change that?</SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"></SPAN></DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"><STRONG><EM></EM></STRONG></SPAN>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"><STRONG><EM>Additional resources</EM></STRONG></SPAN></DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"><A href="http://www.northcountrygazette.org/2008/08/19/local_efficiency/">Report: Local Government More Efficient</A></SPAN></DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"><A href="http://www.aicpodcast.org/files/Ft.%20Wayne%20Journal%20Gazette%20article%20-%20Allen%20County%20Catches%20$6%20Million%20DLGF%20Mistake.pdf">Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette article - Allen County Catches $6 Million DLGF Mistake.pdf</A></SPAN></DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"><A href="http://www.aicpodcast.org/files/Herald%20Republican%20Opinion%20on%20Steuben%20County%20Council.pdf">Herald Republican Opinion on Steuben County Council.pdf</A></SPAN></DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"><A title="AIC Podcast" href="http://www.aicpodcast.org/ShepardKernan">AIC Podcast: Listen to Interview with David Bottorff</A></SPAN></DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"></SPAN>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV align=left><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"></SPAN>&nbsp;</DIV>
Created By <a href="mailto:" title="Avery, Karen">Karen Avery</a>
Created On 12/05/08 12:36
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Keywords: Indiana Local Government Efficiency Costs


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