Pharos-Tribune

Breaking News

Columns

March 6, 2012

Local Unigov in reverse?

One of the most progressive things — perhaps the most progressive thing — that leaders in our state’s largest community ever did is one that continues to pay dividends more than 40 years later.

When Indianapolis and Marion County officials decided to join forces and try a concept called Unigov, they gave up something every power-seeking politician craves — authority and legitimacy. What they came up with was a form of government that had never been successfully introduced before in Indiana.

In a word, it was bold — so much so that few counties anywhere have done it since. They called it Unigov, a concept that would eliminate most of the barriers between city and county government so that everyone could share in the mutual interests of not only governing Indianapolis, but expanding it beyond its corporate limits to the rest of Marion County.

To the generations of Hoosiers who have been born since the Colts moved to Indianapolis, there is somewhat of a notion that the Colts added legitimacy to Indianapolis as a bona fide metropolitan area.

But Unigov gave Indianapolis the kind of legitimacy it needed to get to the point when the Colts considered Indianapolis a new home. A city-county council was formed. Joint planning and zoning began to map out a city with a plan instead of a state capital simply put in the middle of the state because of its geographic location. Industry and economic development followed suit, transforming the city from one called “Naptown” to one that woke up to a new future few American cities rival.

At the other end of the spectrum of government with fewer overlaps, more streamlining and efficiency and a better use of resources such as taxes that can focus an entire region on its future, there are communities that are the anti-Unigov. City and county officials can’t seem to agree on sharing costs or services, let alone what the future of the community should be or which entity should steer it.

Regardless of party affiliation, Logansport and Cass County officials have to be on the same page. Sure, leaders on both sides can have arguments from time to time, and there is nothing wrong with disagreeing in a practical way. It may not matter to people on either side of the aisle or on either side of city and county government if they share an animal control officer, a building commissioner, economic development efforts, fire protection, central dispatching of police and fire calls, ambulance services or a host of other things.

But when officials from other communities or economic developers view ongoing disagreements in a community, they will no doubt talk about Logansport and Cass County and say we simply can’t get our act together, or we don’t play well together. At the end of the day, that image doesn’t bode well for attracting not only new businesses and industries to Logansport, but people who want to live here just because they’re looking for a decent place to live.

Maybe Unigov would never work for Logansport and Cass County, but part of the beauty of the working relationship the city and county have enjoyed in the past 25 years is that several hurdles have been cleared.

When it looked as if a four-lane highway wouldn’t happen for Logansport, city and county leaders along with local legislators did everything they could to stand together behind the concept. When Federal-Mogul officials considered whether to retain operations here or consolidate them in the Sun Belt state of Tennessee, city and county leaders put an imaginary belt around themselves and did all they could to keep Federal-Mogul a local mogul in employment.

When Wilson Foods closed in 1994, city and county leaders again did all they could to bring investors back to an old pork production plant, effectively retooling it for the 21st century and guaranteeing the plant would continue to be a strong link in the nation’s food chain.

When an industrial park needed to be built and when an airport had to be expanded, city and county leaders worked together, realizing that individually, they couldn’t accomplish goals as efficiently separately as they could by joining forces.

When city and county officials can’t agree on sharing the costs of a building commissioner to guarantee safe structures and legitimate construction practices in the community as is the case now, it builds something else — a wall between the city and the county. In a sense, that kind of check and balance system is good for local government accountability, but it can be detrimental not only in the long run for the integrity of local buildings, but for the general impression people have of this community as a whole.

When county government employees are not patients at a county hospital, it says something that may be even more convincing than the best marketing brochures and commercials any hospital marketing firm can produce.

Perhaps Ben Franklin said it best when he said we must all hang together or we most certainly will hang separately. Put another way, imagine what Indianapolis and Marion County would be like today if city and county officials had the attitude that they were opponents who should keep on their respective sides of the city limits.

The reverse of Unigov means a lack of cooperation or even of a dialogue about projects that require joint funding, support and opinions that show state and federal leaders that the community in fact has its act together and has a shared vision of what’s best for everyone.

Unfortunately, government, much like every car produced in this country, has a gear called reverse, and without working relationships between city and county officials, there can only be Unigov in reverse.

• Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached through the newspaper at ptnews@pharostribune.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • Sandra Stotsky STOTSKY: The next step redux in education standards Writing at National Review Online, Rick Hess and Mike McShane of the American Enterprise Institute make the complaint that critics of Common Core have not come up with the next steps to "repeal and replace" for states that want to restore academic in

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • WILLIAMS: Get out on the highway My son's truck is in the shop and my friend, Jan, was in the hospital so I had her truck in order to be able to go feed her cats while John used my car to go to work. Jan and I both purchased vehicles before we retired that we hoped would be the last

    April 24, 2014

  • KITCHELL: Tax bills show what smoke & mirrors don't There's a price to be paid for the decline in what we call civic engagement -- and local property taxpayers are paying that price. In case you haven't received your 2014 Cass County property tax statement yet, be prepared for a bit of sticker shock w

    April 23, 2014

  • MARCUS: Illinois brings joy to Indiana From the email this week, I sensed a profound need by Hoosiers to find joy in the problems of Illinois. Our neighbors to the west are fighting their way through a mess of their own making. They have forced themselves to raise taxes and cut services t

    April 22, 2014

  • VILLAGE IDIOT: Wait a minute here — what did I just sign? When Dr. Sam said, "You've got the prostate of a 16-year-old," it was hard to keep from beaming. This must be how a woman feels when a complete stranger tells her she has a beautiful baby. Well, maybe not quite. Still, it was hard not to feel proud o

    April 22, 2014

  • LYONS: How we devalued the 'R' word At the risk of angering somebody like MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, I sometimes used to joke that I only look white. Actually, I'm Irish. Meaning basically that I wasn't raised to think the man in the big house had all the answers, nor deserved all t

    April 21, 2014

  • HAYDEN: Want better teacher ratings? Ask the kids The state may be back where it started, encumbered with a flawed teacher grading system, a year after implementing what were meant to be tough new standards. That was the general consensus of the State Board of Education days after teacher evaluation

    April 21, 2014

  • KNISELY: Adventures in cat spaying If you're a regular reader of this column, you know I have a cat. I got the cat to deal with the mice. Even if you only pop in on this column from time to time, you still likely know I have mice and that I hate them. I complain about it quite regular

    April 20, 2014

  • GUTWEIN: Strengthening Indiana for Hoosier veterans America's legacy was built on the foundation created by our brave service men and women. Whether they defended our nation's borders overseas or assisted Hoosiers during the harsh winter months, we need to do everything we can to make Indiana the best

    April 20, 2014

  • CEPEDA: Baseball's sacred temple Call it a character defect, but I don't like baseball. And I especially don't like the Chicago Cubs -- losers I never found lovable. I grew up less than a mile west of Wrigley Field and games there represented summer-long inconveniences such as midda

    April 20, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should mushroom hunters be allowed to forage off-trail in Indiana state parks?

Yes
No
Undecided
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
SKorea Ferry Toll Hits 156, Search Gets Tougher Video Shows Possible Syrian Gas Attack Cubs Superfans Celebrate Wrigley's 100th Raw: Cattle Truck Overturns in Texas Admirers Flock to Dole During Kansas Homecoming Raw: Erupting Volcanoes in Guatemala and Peru Alibaba IPO Could Be Largest Ever for Tech Firm FBI Joining Probe of Suburban NY 'Swatting' Call U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.