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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Safe at last

Well, that was fun, let's not do it again:

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, 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. He said folks in those positions should have been consulted.

No matter how many noises they might make about trying different approaches, make no mistake: Local government reform is dead and has to be counted as Gov. Mitch Daniels' biggest agenda failure. The Kernan-Shepard report he commissioned was far too ambitious,  proposing too much radical change at once. So now our 3,986 local governments and 10,000 officeholders will just chug merrily along.