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Opening Arguments

The big clean-up

Headline writers can be so helpful. Here is this nice, dull little story about the work of the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform. The writer is trying to convey the idea that the commission will try to recommend steps that won't require constitutional changes:

"I think it is probably going to be more productive for us to identify those things that can be done by the General Assembly or by the governor or some other part of the state structure without a constitutional change and then identify those that require it and say, 'Here are the two or three or four things that ought to be done by amendment' and recommend those," he said.

A constitutional convention would open the entire document to potential change, Shepard explained, an unnecessary option because the commission is striving to zero in only on consolidating government.

Let's see: Bold, but not too bold. I think I get it. Opening up the entire document to potential change might result in unintended and unwanted consequences. But just in case I'm a little thick, the headline writer sticks this on top of the story: "Reformers won't toss baby with bathwater."

OK, then. That phrase, the story goes, originates from the fact that everyone in a household, way back when, bathed in the same tub of water. The man, naturally, got to use the tub first and therefore had the cleanest water. Then came the sons and other men, then the women and, finally, the babies, the water getting dirtier and cloudier all the time. By the time the last baby was bathed, there really was a danger that the little tyke could be lost track of.

Are you with me so far? The governor, of course, is The Man, so he gets to go first in this "clean up the government" effort. Creating the commission was his idea. Next come the members of the commission, equivalent to those long-ago sons, and the General Assembly, the "other men." Finally the women -- all the local officials who will have to cope with whatever changes are arrived at. Who do you think will be the most likely to be lost track of as the water arrives at the dirtiest, cloudiest point? Yep, you and me.

Hang in there, baby.