It looks like the push by the Governor for local government restructuring is on. A year ago, a commission led by former Governor Kernan and Chief Justice Shepard released a report (pdf) with suggestions for restructuring local government. My analysis of the report is here.
Niki Kelly, writing for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, has an article on Governor Daniels’ press conference pushing many of the remaining items. I see that he is veering from the recommendations by suggesting that Sheriff remain an elected position instead of an appointed one.
First, let me disclose my bias. I’m a local government guy. I work with local government officials and watch them doing quality work day-in and day-out. I also see out of touch state officials blundering in from time to time without a clear notion of how local government functions. (Federal government intervention, it must be said, is orders of magnitude worse.) So, I’m a little skeptical when I see state officials holding forth on what local government must do to adapt to the 21st century; particularly where there is no apparent effort to look at what State government must do to improve its own operations. On the other hand, I recognize that if the State doesn’t push the issue, local government will not restructure in a uniform way.
The general thrust of the recommendations are to consolidate and to replace elected positions with appointed ones. The three county commissioners would be replaced with a single county executive. The unitary executive would also appoint the formerly elected assessor, treasurer, recorder, surveyor and coroner. The county council would have expanded legislative powers instead of being solely a fiscal body.
In addition, school districts with fewer than 1,000 students combine their district central-office operations with another school district. Townships, including the office of the township trustee, would essentially be eliminated. Poor relief, cemeteries, and fire protection responsibilities would apparently be shifted to the county.
Niki Kelly’s report suggests that the divisions on this issue will likely be more rural versus urban rather than Republican versus Democrat. Presumably the urban legislators will be more likely to support the restructuring. In a lot of ways the restructuring looks like Unigov in any case.
Abdul challenged anyone who did not work for local government to make a case against the restructuring. Here are my thoughts:
Diffusion of political power is a hedge against tyranny. Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s wasteful. A despotism is probably the most efficient form of government (under the proper despot). Mussolini made the trains run on time and all of that. Will we all become enslaved if the township assessor is consolidated with the county assessor? Very doubtful. But, at some point there is a line where wasteful democracy becomes more valuable than efficiency.
With this in mind, I am glad the Governor is backing off on the appointment of the Sheriff rather than keeping it an elected position. I think it’s a good idea to keep the guy in charge of the guys with the guns an elected position, separate from the unitary county executive.