by Curt Kovener
What if there was just one super-mega big-box store in each Hoosier county. One Wal-Mart, that’s all. No other grocery. No other clothing store. No other pharmacy. No other tire store or gas station.
That might be a good thing for the community in which the mega-mart was located because everyone would have to go there to make their purchases. But would such a system be a good thing for consumers? And what about those consumers who reside in some of the outlying areas of the county. Would they be best served by a consolidated all purpose store?
I think we all agree that the idea is pretty preposterous, isn’t it?
So think about that the next time you hear some elected official or bureaucrat talk about streamlining government to make it more efficient.
We got our first taste of efficient government four years ago when Gov. Mitch Daniels, to make the Bureau of Motor Vehicles more efficient, closed the Brownstown license branch. We can do most of our BMV business on the internet, we were told. Those folks in the western part of the county who don’t want to drive all the way to the eastern part of the county to wait in line for a license plate can re-new online.
It’s a nice plan, but the folks in the big city do not understand that a lot of the population in the hilly, rustic bucolic western part of the county still do not have high speed internet access necessary for online renewal with the BMV.
Earlier this month, as another of Daniel’s streamlined & efficient government initiatives, township assessors were disposed of as an unnecessary level of government. Farmers and small business owners will have to go online next year to obtain forms to file personal property assessments on their business equipment with the county assessor.
“But I don’t have internet access or a computer. What do I do?” you might ask. I would suggest you ask the question of the governor’s office but I guessing you’ll be told you will have to drive to the county courthouse to get those tax forms.
Does government consolidation save anything? It depends on which side of the argument you stand: government or its customers.
If government consolidation is a good idea and will result in saving tax money, why did the residents of Marion County—the home of the decades old UNIGOV Hoosier experiment to make government more efficient and lower property taxes—go ballistic and lead a revolt last year when they received their property tax bills.
Maybe running government like a business and downsizing sounds good on paper and in political rhetoric until the customers of government (that’s us) are disadvantaged. Then maybe the idea of streamlined government takes on a different flavor.
For instance, another of Daniel’s efficiency proposals is to consolidate Indiana public schools with an enrollment less than 1,000. Some newspapers have reported that number at an even larger 2,000 enrollment. So depending on which number is accurate, if you are from Crothersville, Medora, Brownstown or Austin, just how long do you want your child to ride a bus or how much farther are you willing to drive—how much more are you willing to pay— so government can be more efficient.
If you are from a big city where the school is already large, high speed internet (along with crystal clear cell phone service) has been inplace for years) you are probably a fan of consolidating government. But there may be some folks who are not in favor of beings forced to shop in only one store.
And perhaps we have arrived at the crux of the argument: to gain more efficient government each of us will have to pay more either from our billfold or our time. We all must do more is the result of more streamlined, efficient government.