We’ll Take Our Indiana Governors

The current latest circus in Illinois (that’s the trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich) serves as another reminder of how lucky we are in the Hoosier state. No matter political affiliation, our governors are good guys (I’m sure we’ll make that gender neutral sometime in the not-too-distant future) and have some core basic values — something missing in far too many places.

I’ve had the good fortune to meet our last six governors (Bowen, Orr, Bayh, O’Bannon, Kernan and Daniels; for those keeping score, that’s three each among Republicans and Democrats) and interview the four most recent. The most unique of those engagements would be when sitting governor Otis Bowen’s son served as our high school basketball coach. That was a big deal for the state’s top official to come to a high school basketball game in St. Leon.

Due to several opportunities to interact outside of official interviews, I have to say that I have a strong favorable opinion of Joe Kernan. The fact that the former governor happily provided his cell phone number, hopped in the back seat of my Grand Prix for a ride and shared baseball stories in the stands at South Bend’s Covaleski Stadium are small symbols of a down-to-earth man who has also been an outstanding public servant.

Contrast that with a few of the latest details from Illinois, courtesy of CongressDaily:

The trial of Blagojevich, which is entering its third week, has already gotten off to a rocky start. U.S. District Judge James Zagel ordered the defense and prosecution to come to an agreement on keeping the loudmouthed Blagojevich from waging the trial in public or he would consider slapping gag orders on the defense team.

Prosecutors asked Zagel for the gag order on June 16 after Blagojevich said outside the courthouse the day before that Alonzo Monk, who had just wrapped up four days of testimony as the government’s star witnesses, was lying in his testimony. Monk, Blagojevich’s former chief of staff, is cooperating with the government after being indicted on corruption charges along with Blagojevich.

And if recent history is any guide, Democrats may learn the same lesson from voters that the Illinois GOP did in 2002 in the wake of the bribery scandal that forced Gov. George Ryan not to seek a second term and eventually led him to prison in 2007.

In the wake of the Ryan scandal, the charismatic Blagojevich ran on a platform of cleaning up Springfield and ended 26 years of GOP control of the governor’s mansion. Democrats also took control of the Senate for the first time in 10 years. Blagojevich cruised to re-election in 2006 by tying his opponent to Ryan, and Democrats expanded their majorities in both chambers to near super-majorities.

Ironically, Blagojevich could be the reason that the Democrats again fail to hold onto the governor’s mansion for more than eight years — which they have not done since before the Civil War — and the Illinois GOP is making sure voters are reminded of what Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said about Blagojevich while sharing a ticket. According to media reports, Blagojevich’s trial is expected to wrap up in September, when the campaign season will be kicking into high gear.

Gwaltney Takes Top Honors; BizVoice Total Grows to 50

Readers of the Chamber’s BizVoice magazine have seen the name Candace Gwaltney quite a bit over the past 18 months. Candace has played an ever-growing role in analyzing the issues and telling the company stories in our bimonthly publication, as well as being a key contributor to other communications and public relations efforts.

Candace took top honors in two categories in the recent Indiana Society of Professional Journalists "Best in Indiana" competition. I like to attribute that in part to her journalism background at Ball State, but even that fine university can’t take all the credit for the strong interviewing, organizational and writing skills Candace possesses.

Her winning entries: 

Matt Ottinger earned an honorable mention in the environmental category for Greener Building Practices: Trials and Benefits for Indiana Businesses (July-August 2008) and Tom Schuman placed second in the Best Print Feature category for 2008 Government Leaders of the Year: Joe Kernan and Randall Shepard (November-December 2008).

BizVoice has now earned 50 state and national awards over the past 10 years. It takes a talented and dedicated staff to achieve such a consistenly high performance level. Congratulations to all. Keep reading BizVoice, Indiana’s only statewide general business magazine. If you’re not familiar with the publication, what are you waiting for?

MySmartgov Enthused Over Assessor Referendum Results

Inside INdiana Business has the good news today regarding MySmartgov’s success on Election Day. Many voters in the state supported moving township assessing duties to the counties — a move that was encouraged by the Kernan-Shepard Report and supported by the Indiana Chamber.

Voters in 31 of the 43 townships where township assessors still existed called for uniform assessments and fair taxation yesterday by voting to eliminate township assessors.

“Voters across the state cried ‘Enough!’ loudly and clearly,” said Marilyn Schultz, executive director of MySmartgov.org, an organization formed to advocate for streamlined local government. “Their votes were a resounding call for change in the antiquated, redundant and unfair way that property has been assessed in Indiana for far too long.”

The decisive vote is an unambiguous sign to members of the General Assembly that Hoosiers want to update and streamline their local government, most of which was established to meet 19th-century needs. Lawmakers will be asked during the upcoming legislative session to enact additional reforms recommended by the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform.

Continue reading

Townships Sinking Lower and Lower

As we approach Halloween, how appropriate that township officials keep delivering tricks (with no treats) to taxpayers. We’ve seen plenty of examples of referendum campaigning while on the job from the layer of government that is "closest to the people."

Stop Governing Like This reported last week that the Indiana Township Association wants more dues from its members to fight the Kernan-Shepard recommendations and suggests using funds earmarked for professional dues and subscriptions. That’s taxpayer dollars for a political campaign.

You’ve got to be kidding! Can anyone really think that this outdated form of government should be sustained?