Indiana needs local government efficiency. It didn’t happen legislatively in 2009, but it will return next year. The Chamber and its allies won’t rest until taxpayer dollars are treated as gold, nepotism and outright fraud become relics of the past and our state moves away from a system that is now nearly 160 years old.
We, of course, are not on an island. A Kansas researcher lists his home state and four neighbors as topping the list in fewest residents per government unit. Yes, they (for the most part) share rural characteristics, but that in itself is not a valid excuse. Paul Soutar writes:
While government efficiency may be a challenge for large rural states, it’s not an insurmountable one. Utah is very close to Kansas in terms of population and area, with 2,645,330 residents and 82,144 square miles, but has 9,761 residents per general-purpose government.
The difference is not a matter of geography or population but instead the number of governments. Kansas has 2,084, compared with 244 in Idaho and 271 in Utah.
The effort to introduce the concepts of efficiency and better service to citizens into Indiana’s local government structure has seen more ups and downs than your favorite ride at Holiday World or any amusement park of your choice.
Following seven-plus weeks of progress, retreat, debate and committee members offering support for the broken-beyond-repair status quo, the full Senate restored teeth to some of the legislation on Tuesday.
Eliminating township boards in 91 counties (why not Marion, we must ask?) would be a tremendous step. Doing away with rampant nepotism and unconsionable levels of budget reserves are also a move in the right direction. Some county, library and election reforms are also in play.
The attention turns to the House, with the ball resting with Speaker Pat Bauer. The nearly 40-year veteran of the Statehouse wars has promised all along to take a look at what comes over from the Senate — and he repeated that pledge to the Indiana Chamber’s executive committee last week. Not an overwhelming endorsement, but there is some optimism. This should not be a partisan issue; all can find a place on the bandwagon for better government.
MySmartgov.org makes the case for change. Indiana Chamber members can get the latest in a March 6 First Friday Conference Call featuring Chamber expert Mark Lawrance and government reform commission member Louis Mahern.
For the last 14 months — to the day (the Kernan-Shepard report was released December 11, 2007) — the Indiana Chamber and allies have touted local government reform and pointed out the absurdities in our no longer viable township system. Today, Chamber President Kevin Brinegar presented new information in his testimony on Senate Bill 512.
Consider the following. Is this really how we want our taxpayer dollars spent?
The trustee who doubled her own salary — without authorization — and gave her husband (the deputy trustee, of course, who didn’t know he had that role) a 63% increase
Or the one who altered 46 checks (with a nearly $21,000 price tag) and overpaid himself by more than $15,000, all while being in office for 22 months
How about the trustee who paid himself an entire year’s salary and 12 months of rent for keeping his office in his home — all on January 1
Reports of nepotism have been rampant. Some, however, don’t bother hiring family members. They just give themselves multiple jobs and taxpayer funds. One township board member doubled as township clerk and tripled her take as cemetery caretaker. Another added the roles of emergency assistance investigator and deputy assessor.
There are hundreds of examples of sloppiness, neglect and criminal behavior. Brinegar’s full testimony is available here. Read it for yourself, get mad and do something about it.