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Why Non-Indy Folks Should and Should Not Care About SB 621

One of the biggest laments that I will hear from lawmakers outside of Indianapolis is how they don’t like dealing with what they label “Marion County” legislation.  This session there were three major bills that fit that category, mass transit, financial assistance to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Senate Bill 621 – known by supporters as Marion County government reorganization and opponents as a power grab.  The legislation did a number of things, but the two big ones are that it gives the Indianapolis mayor more budgetary authority by reducing spending for county offices that overspend their allotments and it eliminates the four at-large City-County Council offices once the terms expire of the current office holders.

Many of my friends who are lawmakers from outside Marion County wondered why they and their constituents should care about the inner workings of the state’s largest city.  My response is they should care and they shouldn’t care.  That may seem like a confusing and contradictory response, but if you follow my logic, it will make perfect sense.

Think of the state of Indiana as an airplane with four engines.  Indianapolis is one engine. Central Indiana is one engine and northern and southern Indiana make up the other two engines.  If one of those engines goes out, it becomes much more difficult to fly the airplane and the other engines have to work that much harder to keep the plane in the air and avoid it from crashing.  So I tell my “outstate” lawmaker friends that it is in their own region’s best interest that Indianapolis state healthy and vibrant, because if Indy goes south the rest of the state will soon follow and without Indianapolis, Indiana is Wyoming without the scenery and natural resources. And that is the point where they should stop caring.

One of the biggest lines of attack opponents of SB 621 have used is that if lawmakers gave the mayor more budget control and eliminated the at-large City-County Councilors that their counties would be next.  I always thought that was a poor man’s version of the old domino theory in global politics that if one country fell to communism that eventually their neighbors would fall  if something wasn’t done.  The problem with that logic, and I use the term loosely, is that as the state’s largest city, Indianapolis and Marion County have needs and issues that other counties don’t.  For example, I don’t know of any other counties that have a sheriff that overspent his budget by more than $20 million over the past three years, even though he had his original budget requests fully met.  And 25% of the overspend was on salaries and supplies.  I also don’t know of any other counties that have the third largest government bodies in the United States.  Indianapolis is the 12th largest city in America, but only New York City and Chicago have larger city councils.  Indianapolis has more council members than Los Angeles and L.A. has four times as many people.  Just something to ponder.

I can sympathize that my “outstate” friends can get a little frustrated and feel like they are caught in the middle of Indianapolis politics.  However, they have as much of vested interest in a healthy and financially sound capital city.  And by voting in favor of SB 621 in both the House and Senate, they have done their part to help keep Indianapolis on the right path and now they can stop caring.

  • Peteboggs

    Viewed retrospectively, through the cynical lens of politics; it seems Unigov was “little brother syndrome,” leveraged to expand the city’s size or ranking & position a few insiders to profit from expanded access to public dollars.

    Therefore, shrinking Unigov’s at large seats or rogue spending plans misidentified as “budgets,” seems like a good idea.

    Local manifestation of the “Republican problem,” is its support for expanded / more government / taxes; mass transit, sports & entertainment venues, etc.

    Where, is the party of “small government?”