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EDITORIAL

Let voters decide change in way county is run

Monday, March 3, 2014 - 12:01 am

Should we go to one elected executive instead of three?

Let’s acknowledge the criticism some have leveled against the effort now being considered by the General Assembly to allow a referendum for Allen County voters on whether to have a single elected county executive instead of three. It was slipped into an existing bill as an amendment instead of being deliberated and debated on its own merits. The obvious idea was to avoid the controversy usually attending the issue, and that is a bad way to run an honest, transparent government.

But let’s not let that disagreement over procedure blind us to the obvious merits of the proposal. Scores of ideas for reforming local government have been proposed over decades, up to and including consolidated city-county government. But they never gain any traction because established politicians have too much invested in the status quo.

The problems with three elected county commissioners have been much discussed. Because two of them must agree on anything to be done, sometimes things don’t get done. And they split up areas of responsibility so sometimes things can fall through the cracks, and it can be hard for county residents to know whom to seek answers from. Going to a single executive would make government both more efficient and more accountable.

It would also diffuse power that is now too concentrated in the County Commission. Part of the change called for in a referendum is taking legislative power away from the commission and giving it to the County Council, which is now little more than a finance committee.

The county, in other words, would operate more like the city model. The only difference is that there would be no at-large council districts. There would be nine single districts, which would bring better representation

.

Perhaps you think that’s a bad idea. Wouldn’t you like a say on the issue? Would you like to hear it debated? Well, that’s the point of the proposal. Never forget that this is not something being imposed on voters. It is something the voters would have the power to do or stop.

While it is regrettable that we will hear no debate on the issue in the General Assembly, the most important debate is the one that will go on here in Allen County if the proposal passes. With the referendum going on the November ballot, there would be ample time to thoroughly explore the pros and cons. Even if it doesn’t pass, Allen County voters will have had a lot more opportunity to understand their government and their place in i