We brought you this gem last week. Now, the Indy Star is weighing in with some strong words against the Washington Township board that voted to give itself a 60% pay increase. The Star rightfully also points out that this is just a microcosm of the entire township government problem:
Over protests from residents and with little discussion, the Washington Township Board last week handed itself a 60 percent pay raise, effectively reversing a pay cut the board accepted last year after the township fire department was merged with the city’s.
… Eliminating township government altogether is a prominent recommendation of the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform, whose report last year has been driving high-level discussions about municipal efficiency. One major result already is the folding of township assessors into one countywide office. A new state law accomplished that for smaller counties; and Marion County, for one, approved a referendum this month abolishing the job of township assessor.
Can township government itself, and township boards, be next? Gov. Mitch Daniels, among others, hopes so, arguing convincingly that multiple redundant layers of local government waste money and impede service. As property assessing joins police and fire protection among countywide functions, the dispensability of outmoded township governance will become more obvious.
Defenders of that 19th-century vestige maintain that it keeps public servants closer to the public. Whether that’s worth higher cost and lower efficiency is debatable in any case. In the case of the Washington Township Board, close turns out to be more like in-your-face.
Again, if the board wanted to make a case about job duties changing and whatnot as justification for a raise, I’m sure most of us would be willing to listen. Probably still wouldn’t support it, but we’d listen. Yet the unwillingness to even listen to public input or discuss the matter with the media, as displayed by reporter Norman Cox’s original blog (linked in our first post), is the most alarming aspect of this. The government is not God; it should work for us.