I’ll confess. Last week, I walked the line between growth and contentment. Alright. I’m for economic development. My vision of economic development involves non-economic improvements.
My ideal Indiana does not have decaying cities and suburbs that pretend they are cities. My ideal Indiana transforms itself from a stagnating mid-19th century state into a 21st-century partner in the development of this country.
In my Indiana, Hoosiers welcome cooperation with others in forming more effective institutions. They cease their incredible resistance to regional cooperation and dispense with the fake “regionalism” of current institutions.
A few examples. Counties need to go through the process of internal consolidation. We have too many local governments. Most are antiquated ego enrichment programs enabling inertia. They are bolstered by state money for regional agencies which funnel money to local entities for questionable projects.
Check out these “regional” initiatives. You’ll find projects the locals want to reinforce memories of days long past. There’s money to refurbish downtowns where private building owners would not think of spending their own dollars.
But do state agencies and their regional puppets actually encourage and support functional regional interaction and integration? While Governor of Tennessee many years ago, Lamar Alexander proposed linking every county seat by a four-lane highway to the nearest Interstate highway. Get out your Indiana highway map and see how many Hoosier county seats are without a four-lane highway connecting to an Interstate.
For our health, the easygoing Indiana Department of Environmental Protection needs invigoration. How about regional inspection agencies with integrity to provide meaningful monitoring of pollutants in our air, land and waterways? In addition, our EPA needs powers to enforce compliance.
Effective training and standardized procedures for all law enforcement officers could be handed over to our state police. Movement from one department to another would require full-disclosure of prior personnel files. No longer could bad apples be hidden in a different barrel.
We need to enforce our laws. Overweight trucks destroy local and county roads more than they do our state highways. But how often do the local cops stop an overweight vehicle from a firm that sponsors the local little league? This step forward requires leadership from the Statehouse with implementation on a regional basis.
And the big one? It’s time for standardized, higher quality education in our state. Lax policies at the local level persist despite state control of school funding. We must abandon the local elected school board’s influence over anything other than extra-curricular activities and the uniforms that go with them.
Schools are an instrumentality of the state. Yet we have held back from a rational education policy because of the low level of competence evidenced year after year in the General Assembly.
Oh, I know there are good people among the 150 who represent us. But good is no longer good enough; better would be a start.