If you live outside northern Indiana you may not be interested in this commentary, but I suspect there are many other communities facing similar financial problems.
Let me make it perfectly clear that I love living in Granger, Indiana USA. After living all over the country from Illinois, to Texas, west to California, back to Illinois, south to Florida, up to Minnesota, south to Indiana, out west to Arizona, and back to Indiana, we are very content living in a quiet suburban community.
While we do not enjoy the severe winters in North Central Indiana the other three seasons make up for the few frigid winter months. The vehicle traffic is generally acceptable, and the cost of living is much better than many popular temperate climate locations.
As the years pass I find that my needs are less, and my priorities now include an appreciation of superior medical facilities. Nearby Mishawaka has very good shopping, and several excellent dining facilities. What makes living in this community special are the good friends that we have developed over the years.
The title of this commentary is correct. We may leave this area, because of our inept governmental leadership. Our home county government and the City of South Bend are facing a financial crisis of their own doing. For years the Democrat Party has ruled the South Bend and the St. Joseph County government, and they have repeatedly failed to govern with appropriate financial integrity. Since the Indiana State legislators passed measures to address the inflated property tax regulations, local governments are faced with less revenue coming into their coffers.
With the prospect of less revenue coming from the State, the Mayor of South Bend is crying that they cannot function without reducing essential services, such as firing policemen and firemen. It has been proposed that a doubling of the Local Option Income Tax will be necessary to offset a projected deficit of $4.3 million dollars. Their plea appears to be logical at first blush, but the real issue is the fact that both the County and the City of South Bend have been operating with bloated budgets for years. Two quick examples are the multiple layers of government, and law enforcement operating within the state, county, city, townships, and schools.
The problems facing this community are similar to those being addressed by the Big Three automobile companies. Poor management, bloated staffs, under funded retirement obligations, poor budget controls, and, locally, a failure to address any of the necessary reforms outlined in the December 11, 2007 Kernan Report that were fully outlined in the Indiana Commission of Local Government Reform report.
As stated in my December 3rd essay titled STREAMLINING GOVERNMENT AND SAVING MONEY I reported that the only effort taken thus far to cut expenses was made by the City of Mishawaka in combining their Department of Weights and Measures into the same operation in South Bend. The unified operation will save significant sums of money. The City of South Bend continues to plow forward without making substantial budget reductions in their bloated budget.
The reasons causing the demise of cities like South Bend and/or the St. Joseph County government are carefully outlined in Richard Longstreet’s book CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE. Hoosiers resist change, and have repeatedly failed to adapt to changing circumstances. Times are bad across this nation, but how can the City of Mishawaka operate without a call for increased taxation? Mishawaka has reduced dollars from the State too, but they have effective leadership and good budget controls. The citizens of St Joseph County strongly signaled the fact that they do not want another increase in their taxation.
One example of the inept leadership in South Bend is Mayor Stephan J. Luecke’s, and the Council’s decision to grant 1 million dollars to install a jumbotron television screen outside the new WNIT-TV PBS facilities. Downtown South Bend is a total joke, and I find few reasons to venture into the crime ridden streets. Why do fewer and fewer citizens go downtown? The reason is clear that there is little there to attract people, aside from one good bakery, one good chocolate store, and a couple of museums that once you attend them, most do not return. Sure there are a couple of good eating establishments and occasionally a good live theatre offering. Even the very interesting College Football Hall of Fame can not cover its own operating budget without a huge financial infusion of cash from the City and taxpayers’ pocketbooks. The voters were promised they would never have to cover the operating expenses of the Hall. The Studebaker Museum is a shrine to a failed business and a one-time only destination, too.
On December 12th I was pleased to learn that Governor Mitch Daniels announced a series of local government reform proposals toward eliminating township government in Indiana, which comes from the Kernan Commission Report. This is a constructive start, but immediately the Democratic Speaker of the House, B. Patrick Bauer, stated that he will consider the proposals, but this is not the time for action. Bauer continues to be an obstructing political force in establishing more efficient State government. I ask the question of Speaker Bauer, “When is the proper time?”
I live on a fixed income just like thousands of other people in St. Joseph County and we have been nearly financially tapped out. Hopefully, the electorate will wake up and change the do-nothing administration. When the South Bend Mayor cannot find it in himself to make the necessary budget cutbacks it is then time to replace him. How many Deputy Mayors does Luecke need?
The Republicans are not blame free either. They continue to be poorly organized, under-funded, and repeatedly present less than electable candidates.
Should this proposed income tax come to pass I just may leave St. Joseph County. I do not want to depart, but I refuse to feed the pockets of a mismanaged administration. The overlapping layers of government in this area are an unnecessary expense, redundant, and a misuse of public monies.
It is time for the voters to make their voices heard. A non-violent tax revolt is the answer.
Just compare the fiscal integrity of South Bend to that of the City of Mishawaka. Compare the economic vitality of Mishawaka to South Bend. Why did a huge automobile dealership move out of downtown South Bend? Why did St. Joseph Regional Hospital and the WSBT Stations move too? In a recent USA Today article it was reported that more families moved out of Indiana than moved into the state during 2008.
It probably will take me several months to sell my house in this down economy, but I am damn serious. Yes, I can afford to pay the increased tax, if it is passed, but why would or should I continue to support ineffective leadership. Why does the local electorate continue to support fiscal irresponsibility?