Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

January 2, 2013

Our agenda for year ’13

In April 2012, the Center for National Policy, a Washington think tank of analysts and decision makers who focus on economic revitalization and the global expansion of human rights, invited Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight to join the group as a fellow for American government.

It was a well-deserved honor.

Despite our slow recovery from a Great Recession that dried up employment and incomes statewide, the City of Kokomo has partnered with non-profits, private businesses and other local governments to improve the quality of life in the Kokomo area.

Continuing years of progress in these areas – in community development, employment and government efficiency – will again be this newspaper’s priority for 2013. And we’ll encourage state lawmakers to change criminal sentencing guidelines that encourage use of community-based corrections programs and reduce the number of class D felons in our state prisons.

Community development

Gateways into Indian Heights were replaced. The Northside Youth Baseball Park received upgrades of shrubbery, improved power poles, new lights and gravel. A new fire station was built on South Dixon Road to begin serving this year the newly annexed areas to Kokomo’s southwest. The Industrial Heritage Trail was extended south. And plans for a new downtown YMCA and parking garage were relaunched.

These were just a few of the city’s quality-of-life improvements in 2012.

People who work in the economic-development field say such projects are important to attracting new business. But area residents must encourage investment in parks, trails and beautification efforts for their own benefit. If they don’t, who will?

Employment

Firm Green, a California technology company with operations on Albright Road, announced it could hire up to 35 people within a year. Haynes International announced a $24 million investment that will create 40 new jobs. CD Logistics said it would add 43 new full-time jobs over the next two years.

But the big economic news in 2012 was yet another move by Chrysler Group to expand transmission production in Howard and Tipton counties. All told, the company could hire 1,200 new workers – that’s on top of the 1,100 jobs that were created after Chrysler added new manufacturing lines in Kokomo last year.

The area jobless rate has been a local concern for more than a decade now. Howard County has lost about 25 percent of its jobs since 2001.

Job growth is the No. 1 concern of Americans, national polls say. And it will continue to be a priority for us and local economic developers, as well.

Government efficiency

Once-separate city and county emergency dispatch services have been operating under the jurisdiction of the Howard County Sheriff Department for almost two years now. It was a significant achievement.

Yet the city transferred all responsibility for Weights & Measures and the Emergency Management Agency in 2012.

We still are waiting to see whether Howard County government will pledge economic development income taxes toward construction of the downtown YMCA in 2013.

It’s the kind of cooperation that would be an example to others in Indiana of how local government is supposed to work.

Sentencing reform

A two-year-old report from the Pew Center for the States found that Indiana’s prison population had grown 41 percent from 2000 to 2008. The Indiana Department of Correction estimates state incarcerations will grow another 21 percent by 2017.

Indiana has more than 6,000 inmates locked up on class D felonies. Most of those beds should be freed up for violent criminals.

Lawmakers must give judges more discretion over sentencing low-risk offenders to community-based programs – an option legislators have taken away in some cases.

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