To those of you reading this blog, our BizVoice magazine and numerous other written communication efforts, thank you. To those who also want to see the latest from the Indiana Chamber, you can click on the videos tab at the bottom of each page on our web site. What will you find?
Commentaries from Chamber President Kevin Brinegar
BizVoice magazine segments featuring stories from our current issue
Profiles of 2008 Annual Award and Volunteer of the Year winners
Our special policy outreaches on local government reform (featuring former Gov. Joe Kernan) and the Letters to Our Leaders campaign
In addition, Brinegar and other Chamber issue experts appear weekly on the Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick television program during the legislative session. Inside the Statehouse segments are also available online.
A heartfelt congrats and thanks to the winners of prestigious awards last night at the Indiana Chamber’s 19th Annual Dinner:
Business Leader of the Year: Tony George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp.
George became CEO of the family-owned Indiana Motor Speedway Corporation in 1990 and later founded the Indy Racing League. During his reign over the famous two-and-a-half-mile oval, George has added to the event offerings beyond the famed Indy 500, with NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, a stretch of Formula One races and, just this year, Indianapolis’ first MotoGP. He also led efforts in 2008 to unify open wheel racing under the IndyCar Series, allowing the Indy 500 to remain the cornerstone event. In addition to facilities and events at the Speedway, George and his family oversee Terre Haute-based baking enterprise Clabber Girl. Last year’s winner was Niel Ellerbrook of Vectren.
Government Leaders of the Year: Former Gov. Joe Kernan and Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard
The bipartisan pair led the seven-member Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform. The effort produced 27 bold recommendations in areas in which Hoosiers could realize better delivery of services and set the stage for Indiana to restructure local government for the benefit of all citizens. Among the suggestions: eliminate township government, realign county government by reducing the number of elected officials and by creating a single county executive for more accountability, increase countywide coordination of the delivery of emergency response services and encourage joint purchasing among school corporations. Last year’s winner was Mayor Graham Richard of Fort Wayne.
Community of the Year: Noblesville Noblesville saw its population increase from less than 30,000 in 2000 to nearly 40,000 people five years later and with the numbers still on the rise, put together an aggressive plan to supplement its residential growth. An unprecedented 3,600-acre-plus Corporate Campus combines industrial and commercial development – leading to a more diverse tax base and providing job opportunities for community residents – with additional housing opportunities. Downtown is also emphasized, with longtime professional and retail operations joined by a variety of newcomers – all benefiting from city funding devoted to marketing and infrastructure improvements. Last year’s winner was Anderson.
The South Bend Silver Hawks have clinched the Eastern Division title of the Class A Midwest League as the second half of the minor league baseball season winds down. I know you’re saying thanks for the sports update, but there is more.
Former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan, a catcher during his college days at Notre Dame, serves as president of that team. Kernan spearheaded an ownership group that kept the franchise in South Bend. Kernan also had a 2007 "volunteer" job (the current governor calls and you accept) of co-chairing the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform.
Kernan took time earlier this year to share his perspective on one of the key recommendations out of that group — elimination of township government. It’s one of only 27, but a critical one if our state is to operate local government effectively and efficiently.
The title of this post was the subtitle of the December 2007 report from the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform. Seven people (led by co-chairs Joe Kernan and Randy Shepard) took six months to listen to Indiana residents, pour over past studies and reports, and determine that the structure of local government in Indiana is a mess.
While they did issue 27 recommendations, few in power were admittedly ready to act. After all, the top three issues in the 2008 General Assembly were property taxes, property taxes and property taxes. One of the results of property tax reform is less money for local government operations. Now, maybe even those entrenched in the current system will realize we can’t continue to conduct business as usual in a system that was set up in the 1850s.
Indiana has more than 3,200 local units of government and nearly 11,000 local elected officials. Over 400,000 people don’t have access to public library services. Public safety is at risk due to ineffective communications between safety agencies. An Evansville Business magazine article recalled a prospective downtown business owner in that city having to attend 27 meetings in 15 days in the attempt to get his company off the ground. That’s ridiculous.
It’s not the people within the system who are at fault; it’s the structure that prevents them from operating most effectively and efficiently.
John Krauss, director of the Indiana University Center for Urban Policy and the Environment and a former deputy mayor of Indianapolis, led the staff support for the commission. He was recently quoted in a Governing magazine article: "There should be one person that’s accountable. You don’t have three CEOs that run McDonald’s or Microsoft."
Tampa, which has seen its attempts at unification with Hillsborough County fall short three times, is aiming for the elected "mayor" to run the county option. Voters will have their say in November.
The UniGov relationship between Indianapolis and Marion County that developed 40 years ago remains more the exception than the norm. Discussions of city-county working agreements in Fort Wayne and Evansville, among other places, have taken place in recent years.
The local government efficiency focus in-state has shifted to the Kernan-Shepard Commission and its 27 recommendations. Perhaps no issue is more important to long-term economic reform. Count the Indiana Chamber (with an assist from former Gov. Joe Kernan) among the chief advocates in spreading the word and working for enactment.
Louisville/Jefferson County is the recent model of success (2005 BizVoice story). Other city-county consolidations, according to Governing magazine: Nashville/Davidson County, Jacksonville/Duval County, Boston, Denver, New Orleans, Honolulu, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
A potential marriage between Pittsburgh and Allegheny County has never gained traction. Officials keep trying, but the latest proposal would exempt the county’s 129 other municipalities (129; seems like local government on steroids).
Pennsylvanians will have their say later this year at the polls. Indiana voters will be going to the polls in referendum elections for 43 township assessors (much more to come on that topic) with the General Assembly and others tackling comprehensive reform in 2009.
Members of the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform didn’t abandon the cause after coming up with their far-reaching and meaningful recommendations in late 2007. The six months of work in compiling the report obviously became personal for the commission members – co-chairs Joe Kernan and Randall Shephard along with Ian Rolland and John Stafford of Fort Wayne, Sue Ann Gilroy and Louie Mahern of Indianapolis, and Adam Herbert of Bloomington.
Kernan, at the Indiana Chamber’s request, jumped in early this year with a series of video messages and BizVoice magazine article emphasizing the need for reform and discussing the findings/recommendations in specific issue areas. The former governor – along with Shepard, Stafford and Mahern, in particular – has been out on the speaking circuit ever since the report was released. They, along with others, recognize the challenge. It’s fair to say they (again, along with proponents who understand the importance of modernizing a system that has been in place for more than 150 years) wished more progress had taken place during the General Assembly session, but as political veterans they also realize little could be done with the runaway train that became homeowner property tax relief.
It’s no secret that Gov. Daniels will be focusing on this topic in his re-election bid and, if successful, in the 2009 legislative agenda. The status quo must change – at all levels. The numbers are in the report; the message is the same as those four words from Kernan upon its release – “If not now, when?”