In a recent post to Inforefront.com, Chris Cotterill plows some well-tilled ground, essentially pooh-poohing the notion that cities and towns need more taxing authority in order to provide a decent level of municipal services.
We just need to do more with less. It’s a tired trope.
Some of his recommendations are reasonable–consolidated purchasing and maintenance operations, for example. Some aren’t: outsourcing or outright sale of city functions (the “holy grail” of those who believe that the private sector can provide services more efficiently no matter what the nature of the service–a belief not supported by the evidence); a hiring freeze (several city departments are already headed for “decimated” status), the exclusion of spouses from healthcare coverage (you think it’s hard to get good employees now?), and outsourcing operations of golf courses (because that worked so well during the Goldsmith Administration).
These recommendations have been around–and many of them implemented–since I served in the Hudnut Administration. The problem is, even if they all worked as Cotterill thinks they would, they wouldn’t begin to generate savings sufficient to address the problems we face.
Of course, there are some major improvements that might generate substantial savings–although they didn’t make Cotterill’s list. The Kernan-Shepard report identified the incredibly wasteful Trustee system; and I’ve argued before for consolidation of the eleven school districts in Marion County that collectively serve fewer students than IPS used to enroll. Unfortunately, we not only lack the political will to make those changes, our antiquated taxing system–with its dedicated funds–wouldn’t allow those savings to be used where they are most needed.
Should government services be delivered efficiently? Of course. Are some local government priorities misguided? Yep. Will addressing either of those issues solve the very real problems facing our underfunded local government units? In your dreams.
Mayor Ballard defended the recent deal with the Pacers by pointing out that the money going to the CIB can’t be used for other things, like police. That’s true–and it’s a far bigger problem than a lack of consolidated purchasing.
We need meaningful home rule, and the ability to allocate tax revenues to our most pressing problems. Giving local government actual authority over its own decisions would also improve transparency and allow citizens to hold local lawmakers accountable.
Of course, our arrogant overlords at the General Assembly are unlikely to agree.