Supporting the Arts on Others’ Dime (Lots of Dimes)

Let’s be clear: Carmel’s Palladium performing arts center is a good thing, adding to the quality of life for residents of the Hamilton County city and surrounding areas. A township trustee spending $10,000 in taxpayer money so he, township board members and their guests could enjoy the grand opening is the latest in a long line of reasons to do away with this outdated form of government.

The key phrase is "taxpayer money." Which makes the following comments all the more ridiculous. The trustee told WRTV-Channel 6, "From my standpoint, it was the right thing to do." The township board chairman adds, "We view this as supporting the arts in Carmel."

The Indianapolis Star editorial on Saturday stated in part:

Keep in mind that poor relief is one of the purported purposes of township government. But tuxedoed patron of the arts? Not on the official list of a township trustee’s duties.

(Trustee Douglas) Callahan, however, was unrepentant in an interview with The Star’s Chris Sikich. He even tried to argue that township officials have been picked on by powerful forces. "People are throwing us to the dogs constantly, from the (Indiana) Chamber of Commerce to the media to the governor’s office,” he said.

The state chamber, the governor and the editorial boards of 16 Indiana newspapers, along with dozens of other officials and organizations, have indeed been critical of township government. But their complaints aren’t so much with the people who fill township offices as with the system in which they operate. Even if every existing township official were to be replaced with people of impeccable judgment and integrity, the township system still would be antiquated, inefficient and unnecessary.

And although Callahan and the township board members exercised poor judgment in using tax dollars to buy tickets to a fancy celebration, the more significant outrage is that Indiana’s townships are collectively hoarding at least $295 million in public money while fewer people in need receive assistance.

Really, it’s time for reform. It won’t happen, however, unless Hoosiers speak up and demand it. Need more convincing. Check out MySmartGov

UPDATE: Upon advice of the Clay Township Attorney, who also happens to be House Speaker Brian Bosma, township officials have decided to do the right thing and return the $10,000 used on Palladium tickets.