Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

February 17, 2009

Daniels, Kernan pitch government reform

The push to reform county government in Indiana started in Kokomo with a visit by Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Gov. Joe Kernan.

They argued the state system is antiquated and must be changed.

More than 200 people attended a meeting Tuesday at Pastariffic during which Daniels and Kernan answered questions on the proposal sponsored by MySmartGov.org.

Marilyn Schultz, executive director of the organization, said a vote on township government reform is scheduled in the Indiana Senate. She noted sample letters were available for people to send and cell phones available to contact lawmakers.

The key to local government reform is the Kernan-Shepard Report issued last year. It presented 27 recommendations to consolidate local government.

The intent of the reforms is to replace the current system of county government with a single elected county executive who would then make appointments, similar to a mayor.

If approved, it would mean county auditors, treasurers, recorders, assessors, coroners and surveyors would no longer be elected positions. It would also eliminate township trustees, consolidate library districts and seek to consolidate school systems of less than 1,000 students.

Daniels said the public has been opposed to some change, such as the switch to daylight-saving time, which he said was a good policy for the state.

“By every measure, the public supports the change in the system,” he said. “Last year in referendum votes most township assessor positions were eliminated.”

Daniels said those wanting to maintain the status quo are mostly the officeholders and they are mobilized and will show up at hearings.

“The public needs to make their position known,” he said. “We’re not sailing into the wind on this one.”

Daniels said he doubts any legislators will lose an election if they vote for the government reform bills.

David Bottorff, director of the Association of Indiana Counties, said the organization is supportive of most of the recommendations.

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