This morning’s Indianapolis Star had a bit of real reporting amid the multiple sports and “human interest” stories. Apparently, a bill being shepherded through the legislature would give sole authority for establishing new toll roads to the Governor. Well, not to just any governor–the measure would remain in effect for only four years.
As many of us recall, a couple of years ago Governor Daniels unveiled a plan to build a toll road around Indianapolis–outside I465. The public response was, shall we say, less than enthusiastic. City planners pointed out that “ring roads” of this sort suck traffic away from city centers, and that such a project would likely deal a blow to the resurgence of Indianapolis’ downtown. Environmentalists argued that the billions expended on such a project would be better spent on rail and mass-transit. The general public opposed it for a variety of other reasons.
Our Governor may be small, but he’s determined. And he’s serenely confident that he knows better than the public what the public needs. Hence, a bill that will let him do things his way, without the distractions of that pesky “democracy” thing.
What lessons might we take away from this morning’s article?
- Jefferson was right: eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. People in power may give lip service to democracy and the “will of the people,” but given half a chance, they’ll dump democratic processes for unrestrained power in a heartbeat.
- Citizens need journalism. We need to know what our public officials are doing, what they are proposing, how they are conducting themselves in office. Increasingly, in our internet age, we need to know who is telling the truth, and who is lying to us. That need is particularly acute at the state and local level. But real reporting costs money, so our local newspapers are thinner and thinner, and more and more of what’s left is fluff: recipes, fashion, weight-loss advice and, of course, sports.
This morning’s story reminded us why “the press” has constitutional status. It is supposed to be the eyes and ears of the public–our watchdog. When it does its job–like this morning–we the people have at least a fighting chance.