Howey Political Report
House Dems, Mourdock and showing up for work PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 11 January 2012 16:13

by Brian Howey
INDIANAPOLIS – With Indiana House Democrats not showing up for the people’s business on Wednesday – the first day of the Indiana General Assembly - they are on a collision course with regular Hoosiers, most who wouldn’t even think of blowing off a day of work.
Look no further than a Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted last Dec. 11-13 for the Indiana Realtors that revealed 68 percent do not approve of the five-week Democratic walkout last year. As pollster Gene Ulm notes, “Walk out at your own risk.”
Which brings me to the state’s “chief financial officer,” Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock. An analysis of Mourdock’s official functions in office reveal that since January 2010 when he began his reelecton campaign, he has attended only 34 percent of the meetings of boards he either presides over or is a member. The balance of funds involved with these boards is documented to be $1.537 billion.
This compares with 53 percent attendance of various boards from February 2007 when he took his initial oath of office to Dec. 31, 2009.
Mourdock was reelected to a second term in November 2010, was sworn in for a second term in January 2011, and then announced his challenge to U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar on Feb. 22, 2011. He has spent much of 2010 and 2011 campaigning for reelection, running for the U.S. Senate, or training for the Chicago Marathon. Mourdock has been a serial candidate, running 11 times for various offices since 1988.
Lugar missed only four of 235 votes in the Senate in 2011 and has a 98 percent lifetime voting record. When Lugar ran for president in 1995 he missed 26 votes, or 4.24 percent, and had a 96 percent attendance record. In 1996, he missed four votes (1.3 percent) and had a 98 percent attendance record while actively campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire and a number of early primary states.
U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, the presumed Democratic nominee for the Senate seat, did not miss a vote out of 814 taken from Jan. 5 through Oct. 27, 2011.
Of the 122 board meetings that have occurred through November, Mourdock has attended just 42, according to a study of meeting minutes, representing a 34 percent attendance. Of the 24 meetings of the Indiana State Police Pension and Benefit Fund Advisory Board, Mourdock has attended none as the sole trustee since January 2010. Between 2007 and 2009 Mourdock attended four of 53 meetings and just two of 19 meetings in 2009, when he made international headlines after filing a challenge to the Chrysler bankruptcy and proposed merger with Fiat in the summer of that year. Mourdock attended two board meetings during the Chrysler case deliberations, but the minutes of the board make no mention of the case.
On May 19, 2009, without Mourdock’s presence, the State Police Pension Board heard information on the treasurer’s new policy prohibiting state investments in companies receiving federal stimulus funds.
At a special meeting on Feb. 17, 2009, the minutes indicate that it was suggested the board look into investment strategies during the third quarter of 2009 due to the long-term impact of the 2008 market dive.
Mourdock has also missed all seven meetings of the Indiana Arts Commission Cultural Trust Fund Administrative Board, all four meetings of the Indiana Grain Indemnity Corporation, and all three meetings of the Financial Assurance Board. According to board member Bill Davis, the board frequently has not met due to lacking a quorum.
Mourdock has attended only one of 18 meetings of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, where he was selected by Gov. Daniels to be the vice chair. From 2007 to 2009, Mourdock attended 13 of 35 meetings or 37 percent of the time.
On the Hoosier START board, Mourdock attended one of six meetings since 2010, compared to 11 of 13 from 2007 to 2009.
Mourdock has attended just seven of 18 State Board of Finance meetings for a 39 percent rate since 2010, compared to 18 of 21 meetings he attended from 2007 to 2009. Former Treasurer Marge O’Laughlin told me she never missed one of these meetings and restricted her campaigning to the evenings.
When Mourdock is chair or secretary/investment manager, his attendance improves. As chair, he attended five of six Indiana Education Savings Authority Board meetings since January 2010, and all 14 of those meetings between 2007 and 2009. He has attended all eight meetings as chair of the Wireless Enhanced 911 Advisory Board; all 12 of the Indiana Board for Depositories; and all 35 Indiana Bond Bank boards, where he is chair.
When Mourdock is not chair or secretary of a board, he has a 19% attendance record since 2010.
“Treasurer Mourdock has chosen to designate a member of his staff who is either a subject matter expert or who manages the day-to-day affairs of that particular board’s funds as his designee,” spokesperson Ian Slatter explained.
There’s an old saying: When the water hole shrinks, the animals act differently. For Mourdock, the behavior changes when the campaign trail beacons.
(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Contact Howey at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

by Brian Howey

INDIANAPOLIS – With Indiana House Democrats not showing up for the people’s business on Wednesday – the first day of the Indiana General Assembly - they are on a collision course with regular Hoosiers, most who wouldn’t even think of blowing off a day of work.

Look no further than a Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted last Dec. 11-13 for the Indiana Realtors that revealed 68 percent do not approve of the five-week Democratic walkout last year. As pollster Gene Ulm notes, “Walk out at your own risk.”

Which brings me to the state’s “chief financial officer,” Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock. An analysis of Mourdock’s official functions in office reveal that since January 2010 when he began his reelecton campaign, he has attended only 34 percent of the meetings of boards he either presides over or is a member. The balance of funds involved with these boards is documented to be $1.537 billion.

This compares with 53 percent attendance of various boards from February 2007 when he took his initial oath of office to Dec. 31, 2009.

Mourdock was reelected to a second term in November 2010, was sworn in for a second term in January 2011, and then announced his challenge to U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar on Feb. 22, 2011. He has spent much of 2010 and 2011 campaigning for reelection, running for the U.S. Senate, or training for the Chicago Marathon. Mourdock has been a serial candidate, running 11 times for various offices since 1988.

Lugar missed only four of 235 votes in the Senate in 2011 and has a 98 percent lifetime voting record. When Lugar ran for president in 1995 he missed 26 votes, or 4.24 percent, and had a 96 percent attendance record. In 1996, he missed four votes (1.3 percent) and had a 98 percent attendance record while actively campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire and a number of early primary states.

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, the presumed Democratic nominee for the Senate seat, did not miss a vote out of 814 taken from Jan. 5 through Oct. 27, 2011.

Of the 122 board meetings that have occurred through November, Mourdock has attended just 42, according to a study of meeting minutes, representing a 34 percent attendance. Of the 24 meetings of the Indiana State Police Pension and Benefit Fund Advisory Board, Mourdock has attended none as the sole trustee since January 2010. Between 2007 and 2009 Mourdock attended four of 53 meetings and just two of 19 meetings in 2009, when he made international headlines after filing a challenge to the Chrysler bankruptcy and proposed merger with Fiat in the summer of that year. Mourdock attended two board meetings during the Chrysler case deliberations, but the minutes of the board make no mention of the case.

On May 19, 2009, without Mourdock’s presence, the State Police Pension Board heard information on the treasurer’s new policy prohibiting state investments in companies receiving federal stimulus funds.

At a special meeting on Feb. 17, 2009, the minutes indicate that it was suggested the board look into investment strategies during the third quarter of 2009 due to the long-term impact of the 2008 market dive.

Mourdock has also missed all seven meetings of the Indiana Arts Commission Cultural Trust Fund Administrative Board, all four meetings of the Indiana Grain Indemnity Corporation, and all three meetings of the Financial Assurance Board. According to board member Bill Davis, the board frequently has not met due to lacking a quorum.

Mourdock has attended only one of 18 meetings of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, where he was selected by Gov. Daniels to be the vice chair. From 2007 to 2009, Mourdock attended 13 of 35 meetings or 37 percent of the time.

On the Hoosier START board, Mourdock attended one of six meetings since 2010, compared to 11 of 13 from 2007 to 2009.

Mourdock has attended just seven of 18 State Board of Finance meetings for a 39 percent rate since 2010, compared to 18 of 21 meetings he attended from 2007 to 2009. Former Treasurer Marge O’Laughlin told me she never missed one of these meetings and restricted her campaigning to the evenings.

When Mourdock is chair or secretary/investment manager, his attendance improves. As chair, he attended five of six Indiana Education Savings Authority Board meetings since January 2010, and all 14 of those meetings between 2007 and 2009. He has attended all eight meetings as chair of the Wireless Enhanced 911 Advisory Board; all 12 of the Indiana Board for Depositories; and all 35 Indiana Bond Bank boards, where he is chair.

When Mourdock is not chair or secretary of a board, he has a 19% attendance record since 2010.

“Treasurer Mourdock has chosen to designate a member of his staff who is either a subject matter expert or who manages the day-to-day affairs of that particular board’s funds as his designee,” spokesperson Ian Slatter explained.

There’s an old saying: When the water hole shrinks, the animals act differently. For Mourdock, the behavior changes when the campaign trail beacons.

(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Contact Howey at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

 
Remembering Bill Cook and Steve Jobs PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 January 2012 18:17

by Brian Howey
NASHVILLE, Ind. - “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.”
This is the most intriguing quote of 2011. They are Apple creator Steve Jobs’ last words before skipping the surly bonds, according to his sister. What was Steve seeing? God? Jesus? Buddha? The iCar? A Higgs boson?
We will never know. Harry Houdini left special instructions for communication beyond life. After a fist in the gut, a sudden death, no one ever heard from Harry again.
This all got me thinking of Bill Cook.
Bill passed away this year and is a Hoosier who left an indelible legacy, not only with his contribution to the medical community, but his commitment to the restoration of the splendid past into a sprawling future. I was most intrigued by the West Baden Hotel; when I first came upon it, it was a ruin. A good part of a whole five-story wing had collapsed. It was in terrible shape.
It was designed and built in 1901 by Harrison Albright, after a fire that same year destroyed the first resort built in 1851, named West Baden after a famous German spa. Albright created the largest free-standing dome in the world that wouldn’t be surpassed until the Houston AstroDome construction began in 1962.
Ownership by the Sinclair family eventually passed to Charles Ballard. Growing up in Peru, Ind., I lived in a subdivision adjacent to the huge Ballard estate there. Under Ballard’s leadership the hotel flourished until the stock market crash in 1929 and it was forced to close. West Baden steadily deteriorated for the next five decades.
I was sad about the condition of this fabulous hotel. I never dreamed it would be restored and I remember taking one tiny tile from the main atrium as a souvenir. It sits in a special place near my office.
But Bill and Gayle Cook, along with Indiana Historic Landmarks, stepped in and restored the West Baden Hotel. It is a magnificent place today. I remember writing a column at twilight at the bar in the atrium this summer, sipping a Stella, watching dusk wander into night, the lights low, the voices hushed. My computer was hooked into the World Wide Web.
The Cooks pumped tens of millions into its restoration.
When I was writing for NUVO Newsweekly, I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Bill Cook. As we gazed skyward, Cook explained, “I’m in awe. It’s like I’m a stranger in something I’ve done.”
This is a man who didn’t often search for words. But the wonder of the hotel left him pondering in beautiful fragments: “It’s just … the same sensation … that I have … such a magnificent building.”
I was truly moved.
More than a decade ago a friend and I took our kids to the partially restored West Baden. We packed a picnic lunch and a blanket and drove there. We spread out on the lawn and watched a huge Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane lift four prefabricated towers on the four corners of the hotel. It was a lovely experience, the completion of the exterior in the most grandiose of fashion. I was moved when the Sirkosky chopper took off from the ground several hours after the final tower had been affixed. It slowly lifted away and the massive rotors thumped our chests.
Everyone stood up and gazed into the sky as it rose above the building, hovering for a moment, and then it did a 360 around the hotel, nose at a downward angle, the crew taking one last look at its magnificence. It was a stunning, definitive moment that still leaves me breathless.
I last saw Bill Cook in 2010, after giving a speech to some of his Cook Group employees. Afterwards, we talked for about 10 minutes on the Monroe County Courthouse Square about the economy and the state of journalism. I thanked him for what he and Gayle did at West Baden.
In August 2003, I was next door to the old hotel at French Lick Springs and Gov. Frank O’Bannon was giving the keynote to the Indiana Democratic Editorial Association that night. I had heard the Governor speak many times, and when he began talking this night, I wasn’t taking notes. But then Frank began talking about the West Baden Hotel and I picked up my pad and pen and began scribbling notes. He told the story of how the architect Albright stood atop the dome while the workers pounded away the supports. Folks gawked below, wondering if the whole thing would really stay up “thar” or whether Mr. Albright would plunge to his death.
Of course, we know what happened. Albright survived, as does his splendid hotel today. But those would be Gov. O’Bannon’s last public words. He passed away a few short weeks later.
Why do I write this today? In hopes that in some Indiana garage or basement, some genius is bringing a fantastic idea to life and market, and that the next Bill Cook or Steve Jobs stands like a seed among us, leading us deeper into the 21st Century.
(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

by Brian Howey

NASHVILLE, Ind. - “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.”

This is the most intriguing quote of 2011. They are Apple creator Steve Jobs’ last words before skipping the surly bonds, according to his sister. What was Steve seeing? God? Jesus? Buddha? The iCar? A Higgs boson?

We will never know. Harry Houdini left special instructions for communication beyond life. After a fist in the gut, a sudden death, no one ever heard from Harry again.

This all got me thinking of Bill Cook.

 
Dan Parker and John Gregg's Rasputin sequence PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 December 2011 15:18

Dan Parker and John Gregg’s Rasputin sequence
Howey Report
by Brian Howey
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Democrats might as well envision themselves on a London rooftop circa September 1940 during what we know as “The Blitz.”
But instead of dodging Stuka dive bombers, Hoosier Democrats have endured a wrecking crew by Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Republicans. And today, with President Obama’s Indiana approval rating below 40 percent, they face the prospect of a popular Republican member of Congress named Mike Pence becoming the next governor, and the strong possibility of a supermajority House (67 GOP members) joining the supermajority Indiana Senate (currently 37 Republicans).
With all eyes on former House speaker John Gregg to save the party in what could be their “finest hour,” what the party ended up with last Saturday was a Chinese fire drill.
Here’s the story line: Gregg wanted to install his own chairperson to head the Democratic Party. For the past seven years, it’s been chaired by Dan Parker, a former aide to Gregg who then rose up through the ranks of the Evan Bayh organization. It was then-Sen. Bayh who installed Parker to mind the party store; presumed gubernatorial candidates seek this. Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan dropped out of the 2004 race after Gov. Frank O’Bannon appointed Peter Manous as chair in 2002.
Parker has been at the mercy of two of the most powerful figures in Indiana politics: Bayh and Daniels. Both have thrown him through a number of hoops, whether it was Bayh’s aborted presidential run, his veep flirtations with a.) Hillary Clinton and then b.) Barack Obama, while Daniels ended personal license plate money to the party, costing it $750,000 annually. On President’s Day 2010, Bayh pulled the ultimate corkscrew, dropping his Senate reelection bid, leaving Parker to orchestrate a bizarre game of musical chairs with Brad Ellsworth replacing Bayh, Trent Van Haaften replacing Ellsworth, Bob Dieg for Van Haaften ….
It turned out to be a disaster. All lost, the Republicans retook the House with a 60-40 majority, and made huge inroads in Southern Indiana.
Gregg became the indispensable man, a charming Southern Indiana politician capable of issuing a stem-winder to rally the base. And he came to the conclusion he wanted what Bayh had: his own guy minding the party shop - Tim Jeffers. On Dec. 12, Parker resigned effective to when a new chair was selected and on Friday, Dec. 16, his office was cleaned out. Parker would land at Jim Schellinger’s CSO Architects, where Jeffers worked. It was a swap.
But the Jeffers’ pick stalled, as party elders like 8th CD Chair Tony Long decided they no longer wanted to take orders. Jeffers dropped out on Thursday night, leaving Parker’s legal counsel, Sarah Riordan, and Joel Miller, an Indianapolis operative with support from Lake and Marion counties, fighting for the chair.
With the Bayh/Parker/Riordan forces facing a defeat (Miller believed he had 12 of the 18 Central Committee votes), Parker pulled out Robert’s Rules of Order, withdrew his resignation and relied on an executive committee procedural maneuver to stay in power.
Even with the larger executive group stacked in Parker’s favor, the critical vote to allow him to stay on was 15 to 13 1/2 - hardly a resounding vote of confidence. Sources say that National Committee member Dean Boerste, Long, and recently resigned 2nd CD Chair Butch Morgan (who was there as an announced proxy) all supported withdrawing Parker’s resignation.
What stunned observers is that Gregg showed up to support Parker’s case. One longtime party observer wondered aloud about Gregg’s judgment in “pulling back” from having Parker ousted. A source at the meeting noted, “There were still enough votes to deny Parker’s request until John Gregg got up. I don’t know who John thought he was helping. Once you insist the Chairman step down, you don’t then back down and leave your friends sitting buck-naked out on Main Street.”
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and Marion County Chair Ed Treacy were furious. McDermott posted on Facebook that the party has “a fraudulent chairman who is beholden to a former US Senator that doesn't even live in Indiana any longer. Our party leadership is a disgrace."
Parker explained, “John came to the meeting and asked for the committee members to accept my decision.”
An Indianapolis Democrat who was part of the effort to elect Miller observed: “Give the devil his due. Parker is like Rasputin. You poison him. You shoot him. You think he’s dead and somehow he lives again. The problem is that our party has suffered under his leadership and we desperately needed a change to position us for 2012. I just wish Dan would be as effective fighting the Republicans as he is fighting to save his own job.”
“This has been the strangest two weeks of my life,” Parker told me Sunday night. “I was fully prepared to hand it over Saturday.” But at a fundraiser Friday night, Parker had Democrats telling him that the time was “too delicate” for a new leader.
As former Chair Joe Andrew would put it, the “Huns are at the gates” and at a time when Gregg needed to be Winston Churchill, he looked like Neville Chamberlain. The episode left both diminished at a time when candidate and party absolutely have to be at the top of their game.
(Correction: In last week’s column, I should have stated that Indiana teachers already operate under Right to Work rules.)
The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

by Brian Howey

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Democrats might as well envision themselves on a London rooftop circa September 1940 during what we know as “The Blitz.”

But instead of dodging Stuka dive bombers, Hoosier Democrats have endured a wrecking crew by Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Republicans. And today, with President Obama’s Indiana approval rating below 40 percent, they face the prospect of a popular Republican member of Congress named Mike Pence becoming the next governor, and the strong possibility of a supermajority House (67 GOP members) joining the supermajority Indiana Senate (currently 37 Republicans).

With all eyes on former House speaker John Gregg to save the party in what could be their “finest hour,” what the party ended up with last Saturday was a Chinese fire drill.

Here’s the story line: Gregg wanted to install his own chairperson to head the Democratic Party. For the past seven years, it’s been chaired by Dan Parker, a former aide to Gregg who then rose up through the ranks of the Evan Bayh organization. It was then-Sen. Bayh who installed Parker to mind the party store; presumed gubernatorial candidates seek this. Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan dropped out of the 2004 race after Gov. Frank O’Bannon appointed Peter Manous as chair in 2002.

 
Right to Work is more about politics than jobs PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 December 2011 19:12

Right to Work is more about politics than jobs
by Brian Howey
INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Mitch Daniels and Republican legislative leaders say that with the unemployment rate continuing to hover at an unacceptably high nine percent, we need "every tool available" to attract jobs. Thus, the Right to Work legislation has become the No. 1 issue heading into the 2012 General Assembly short session.
I'm not necessarily for or against Right to Work. But I have a propensity to call things the way they are. Like, if we have casinos in Indiana, they once had to be "riverboats" and developers had to dig inland moats to put them in. Stupid. Or, if marijuana is to be legal, it has to be "medical marijuana." Dumb.
While Right to Work is a tool in the job development box, this is what it really is: the final union-busting maneuver of the Daniels’ era. And Republicans can do it because, like a dog licking himself, he does it because he can.
Indiana Democrats became so vacuous, so devoid of ideas this past decade, and so mean at campaigning, that Hoosier Republicans have won two straight governor races, have a super majority in the Indiana Senate and a 60-40 majority in the Indiana House, with a good chance of making it a super majority next year.
That's what happens when you have a mind trust like House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer.
In the Daniels’ era, the GOP has systemically knocked out the supporting trusses of the Indiana Democratic Party. Secretary of State Todd Rokita created a statewide voter file to clamp down on redundant voting. When he was a federal District Attorney Joseph Van Bokkelen took on the Pastrick Lake Democratic machine with RICO laws and former Attorney General Steve Carter went after millions of casino-generated East Chicago's Second Century funds.
On his first full day in office, Gov. Daniels ended collective bargaining for state employees and watched as unionized membership tumbled by 90 percent. Daniels ended the personal license plate money that used to go to the political parties, costing Indiana Democrats $750,000 a year. Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock - with Gov. Daniels cheering him on - tried to stop the Chrysler/Fiat merger. If Chrysler and General Motors had collapsed, the United Auto Workers - one of the biggest funders and phone-bankers in Indiana gubernatorial politics for decades - would have been neutered.
Now the historic opportunity is to end mandatory union membership with Right to Work. My Democratic sources acknowledge that should this occur, union membership across the board could decrease in the 50 to 75 percent range. The UAW and the Indiana State Teachers Association - the massive funders of gubernatorial, Congressional and legislative campaigns in Indiana - won't have nearly the clout.
So there is a significant political component to Right to Work, and anyone who denies it has a bridge to sell you in the Arizona desert.
I have viewed unions and business organizations like the Indiana Chamber and the Indiana Manufacturers Association as bookends. Both have Political Action Committees that fund gubernatorial and legislative races. We’ve had competitive politics here because of that dynamic. If you're a Republican, Right to Work will crimp the unions and thus the Democratic Party. When they peer into the future, they envision a "Gov. Mike Pence" and two super majority legislative houses. In that scenario, you can kiss moderation goodbye.
Conversely, Right to Work could make unions better, and its leaders more responsive to their membership.
Now, why do I think Right to Work will be more like a little crescent wrench in the economic development tool box, as opposed to a power drill or a pneumatic nailer?
Because Indiana has seen its union membership drop over the last half century from the 40th percentile to about 10 percent today. And the jobs that Indiana is trying to grow and attract - life sciences, logistics, advanced manufacturing, orthopedics, agricultural science, nanotechnology, information technology - aren't unionized segments of the economy.
State Rep. Tom Dermody of LaPorte became one of the first Republicans to line up against the measure. He used the country club analogy, telling the Michigan City News-Dispatch, “It is as if the members pay dues because they want to use the golf course, but they let other people who don’t pay dues use the course too.” Companies seeking to relocate “want to know about taxes, about a competent workforce, about good schools,” Dermody said.
The Indiana Chamber counters by saying local officials never hear about such companies because they cross Indiana off the list without even exploring it.
I've heard many Republicans over the years say that true job creation comes from small businesses and homegrown companies like Conseco and Cook Group that began as little bitty startups and grew into Fortune 500 status. These types of companies don't tend to be unionized either.
The danger for Indiana Republicans is that personal income in Right to Work states declines. As is the middle class, with tens of thousands of Hoosier families falling from those ranks. Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg sees it as a classic “overreach.”
Right to Work is likely to pass next January. But it's more about politics than job creation.
(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

by Brian Howey

INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Mitch Daniels and Republican legislative leaders say that with the unemployment rate continuing to hover at an unacceptably high nine percent, we need "every tool available" to attract jobs. Thus, the Right to Work legislation has become the No. 1 issue heading into the 2012 General Assembly short session.

I'm not necessarily for or against Right to Work. But I have a propensity to call things the way they are. Like, if we have casinos in Indiana, they once had to be "riverboats" and developers had to dig inland moats to put them in. Stupid. Or, if marijuana is to be legal, it has to be "medical marijuana." Dumb.

 
Urge Gov. Daniels to stump for government reform PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 17:34

by Brian Howey
NASHVILLE, Ind. – In 2005, we witnessed the extraordinary powers of a governor willing to use his political capital.
I watched Mitch Daniels hold town halls in places like Shelbyville, Noblesville and Greenfield, selling a food and beverage tax increase in the suburbs to build an NFL stadium in downtown Indianapolis. Some thought he was crazy, but he succeeded in seven of the eight doughnut counties. This February, the Super Bowl will take place in Lucas Oil Stadium.
We are now in the twilight of the Daniels’ era. He has one last legislative session. My fears are that the emerging battle over Right to Work legislation will suck the oxygen away from just about every other issue. Recall this past session House Democrats walked out for five weeks over the issue and have vowed to do whatever it takes to fight the “tyranny of the majority.”
With Daniels, in conversations I’ve had with him dating back to 2002, one of his great promises has consistently been his intention to move Indiana’s 19th Century government structures into the 21st.
I believed he might follow in the footsteps of Gov. Thomas R. Marshall and Gov. Paul McNutt in reforming Indiana’s outdated government. Gov. Bob Orr (who late in life repeatedly encouraged me to pursue the reform issues) and Gov. Joe Kernan made glancing attempts or participated in studies on the subject. But it was Gov. Daniels who appointed Kernan and Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard to pursue modernization, just as every business has.
What became known as the Kernan-Shepard Commission came up with 27 recommendations. A handful of them (no more than two 911 call centers per county, eliminating all but 12 of the 1,008 township assessors) have passed into law and in the case of assessors, were approved overwhelmingly by voters.
Some of the recommendations, such as eliminating an elected county sheriff in favor of an appointed police chief, would never receive the popular support of the people and, subsequently, legislators.
When the topic came up before an Indiana Chamber of Commerce legislative preview session on Nov. 21, both Republican and Democratic legislative leaders indicated the most likely reforms to come up this session appear to be bills on anti-nepotism and conflict of interest (cops and firefighters serving on councils that set their own salaries). But a number of other issues have fallen by the wayside. They include establishing a single county executive to replace the three county commissioners; the transfer of county auditor, treasurer, recorder, assessor, surveyor and coroner to a county executive; the creation of a countywide body to oversee public safety; the establishment of countywide libraries; and eliminating townships.
In my review of township government, the impediment to total elimination there is that many stakeholders have little faith that the inefficiently structured counties can effectively handle township duties.
Without a governor – in this case one of the most politically popular ones in modern times – actively using his bully pulpit to create an environment for the reforms, they have little chance of passage.
I’m here to remind him that for the past decade, he has not only been an advocate of bringing Indiana government out of the 19th Century, he has done more to push it and he has articulated the logic for these changes in several State of the State addresses. He moved the portrait of Gov. Marshall over the conference table in his Statehouse office, something I took as a subtle reminder that perhaps a century after Marshall tried to move Indiana government into the 20th Century, Daniels might do it in the 21st.
Gov. Daniels was able to forge the property tax caps that are now crimping local governments and school districts. His hope was that the caps would prompt a wave of consolidations. And there have been some successes in places like Zionsville, a town that merged with two adjoining townships. Indianapolis Fire Department has merged with a handful of townships. Howard County is preparing to consolidate its 11 townships to five (one for each school corporation). This prompts the question: Why are taxpayers footing the bill for five superintendents and transportation directors in geographically small Howard County? Brownsburg is pondering consolidation with townships. Evansville and Vanderburgh County are ponderously preparing a merger referendum with passage very much in doubt. North Posey and New Harmony Schools are discussing a merger.
But what we’re seeing in the wake of the tax caps is turf and fiefdom defense. Dozens of library branches are closing as opposed to a countywide system. Franklin Township Schools have cut bus service. Brown County has been embroiled in a fire district dispute. Greenwood’s attempt at consolidating with White River Township helped end the career of Mayor Charlie Henderson.
There are signs of growing support. A majority of the Fort Wayne Council supports a single county executive. Allen County Recorder John McGauley - running for commissioner - is making that one of his top issues.
The scattered consolidation discussions hardly represent a groundswell of cap-induced reforms. The governor likes to talk about reforms emanating from the ground up. It’s not happening.
Write him, call him and tell him to rev up RV1 for a final tour to advocate modern Indiana government.
(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

by Brian Howey

NASHVILLE, Ind. – In 2005, we witnessed the extraordinary powers of a governor willing to use his political capital.

I watched Mitch Daniels hold town halls in places like Shelbyville, Noblesville and Greenfield, selling a food and beverage tax increase in the suburbs to build an NFL stadium in downtown Indianapolis. Some thought he was crazy, but he succeeded in seven of the eight doughnut counties. This February, the Super Bowl will take place in Lucas Oil Stadium.

We are now in the twilight of the Daniels’ era. He has one last legislative session. My fears are that the emerging battle over Right to Work legislation will suck the oxygen away from just about every other issue. Recall this past session House Democrats walked out for five weeks over the issue and have vowed to do whatever it takes to fight the “tyranny of the majority.”

 
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