In 2007, a biparti-san commis-sion named by Gov. Daniels declared that Indiana is “mired in an 1850s reality that’s cumber-some, redundant and complex.” The commission urged a restructuring of county government and the elimination of townships altogether. It was the one big thing Gov. Daniels wanted from the Legislature that he didn’t achieve.
One-third of 27 recommendations issued by the Kernan-Shepard commission became reality, but the radical ones proved too controversial.
Local government reform will not be a front-burner issue in the 2012 governor’s race. Indiana has 3,086 local governments and 10,000 officeholders — a potent political force in opposition to government restructuring.
Republican candidate Mike Pence said he’s been meeting with many of them to look for another approach. “The dialogue I’ve begun in the last six months particularly with local officials is: Are there reforms we can embrace that would permit local, county, township and municipal governments to consolidate back-office functions without compromising front-office accessibility?”
“I’m a small-town guy, grew up in Columbus, got a cornfield in my backyard, still . . . I understand the value people put on accessibility to local government. I also understand there are redundancies, there are excesses, there are distortions.”
Democrat John Gregg said Indiana should get its own house in order before telling local governments how to improve theirs. He suspects there’s room for consolidation and combining of agencies within state government and perhaps elimination of obsolete boards.
Gregg said he believes in modernizing government but was bothered that the commission failed to solicit input from those affected. One of the more-contested proposals would have transferred duties of the county auditor, treasurer, recorder, assessor, surveyor, sheriff and coroner to a single-county executive and his appointees. Folks in those positions should have been consulted, he said.