Indiana Republicans believe that small government and local control* is best.
*Except in Indianapolis, apparently.
This session, lawmakers in the Indiana General Assembly have been spending their time working on the normal stuff — budgets, education, etc. — but have also been spending their time working on a variety of bills narrowly targeted at stripping Indianapolis and/or its residents from making their own decisions.
The ongoing effort spawned a letter from a group of 65 business, religious and community leaders to legislators asking them to drop “heavy-handed” efforts to strip local control from the state’s biggest metro.
Those bills have included law changes that would prevent Indianapolis and other cities from changing their name, if is so sought; attempt to seize control of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, despite the “Indianapolis” in the name of the agency; allow the state to go over the head of local prosecutors if they choose not to emphasize enforcement of low-level marijuana crimes; prevent expansion of local bus service IndyGo, despite that measure already being approved by voters via referendum; and strip Indianapolis’ renter protection rules, an effort that even Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed but that lawmakers are now working to override.
The author of the name-change bill, for example, is looking to restrict major cities from changing their names, not for any good reason but because he’s speculatively fearful that someone will want to take the “Indian” out of “Indianapolis,” despite there actually being no such effort to do so.
It’s not like the mayor could wake up one day, snap his fingers and Indianapolis is now Hoosierpolis or Central City or Peytonville or whatever. There’s a process to be followed, involving local people making local decisions.
Instead, lawmakers should aspire to legislation that allows local units to make their own calls.
Take, for example, a bill from northeast Indiana’s Rep. Dave Abbott, that would allow lake residents to control whether wake boarding and wake surfing are allowed or banned on their lake.
It gives the local residents a democratic process to make a decision about something affecting their lives and livelihoods.
It’s no surprise you get a good local control bill from a legislator like Abbott. He came to the General Assembly from a background of service in small-town, local government, so he has a good understanding of how to use a light touch to solve problems.
Because no one likes someone going over their head.
You don’t like it as a child when mom or dad overrules your opinion, you don’t like it at work when a customer or coworker tattles to your supervisor, and cities and towns don’t like it when the state makes their decisions for them.
And, worth mentioning, state lawmakers don’t like it either when the federal government goes over their heads to tell them how they have to do things in Indiana.
Indianapolis is Indiana’s biggest city with unique problems that won’t be found in places like Angola or Auburn or Ligonier or Kendallville. Reflexively, we wager Indianapolis doesn’t have a good grasp on the challenges facing small, rural cities, either. One shouldn’t presume to legislate for the other.
We guarantee that the mayor, city/county councilors, department heads and residents of Indianapolis know a bit more about what Indianapolis needs than Republican lawmakers from rural Indiana who drop into the city for three or four months per year to legislate.
Republican lawmakers should live up to their ideal that local control is best and drop efforts to take it away from Indianapolis and other counties, cities and town across the state.
OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Dave Kurtz, Grace Housholder, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. Publisher Terry Housholder is also a member of the editorial board. We welcome readers’ comments.