Pharos-Tribune

State News

January 5, 2013

Daniels extols the power of a 'tiny example'

Outgoing governor looks back at changes during his tenure

INDIANAPOLIS — For those wondering what Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels may bring to his next job as a public university president, it may be helpful to consider the details of a story he tells about window washers.

Twenty years ago Daniels, then a corporate executive, was head of a commission assigned to figure out how to make Indianapolis city government operate more efficiently. Among the many questions the commission asked was why the windows on the city-county building were being washed weekly — much more frequently than nearby similar structures owned by private companies.

The answer: It wasn’t because the windows were so dirty, but because the city had four window-washers on its payroll and had to do something to keep them busy.

“This is the power of the tiny example,” said Daniels during a break from cleaning out the Statehouse office he’ll vacate within days.

The commission’s findings triggered sweeping changes in the delivery of city services — including many that were contracted out to private companies — and resulted in a 40 percent reduction of city employees and about $230 million in savings.

That experience came after Daniels had intimate exposure to both local and federal government experience that ranged from working for Richard Lugar, when the now-retired U.S. senator was Indianapolis mayor in the early 1970s, to working for Ronald Reagan in the White House before becoming President George W. Bush’s budget chief.

Experiences, coupled with his years as a top executive at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., that helped shape the views that Daniels brought to his eight years as Indiana governor.

“I developed along the way some sense that government, absent results-oriented management, absent the transplanted accountability (of the private sector) would just drift on….” Daniels said. “It was ‘Well, we’ve got four people, so I guess we’ll just wash (the windows) once a week, even though they don’t need it.’ ”

Daniels isn’t ready to say much about whether there are too many window-washers, or other inefficiencies, at his next place of work: Purdue University.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” said Daniels, diplomatically, before noting Ohio State University’s recent decision to lease out its parking lots to private investors to operate for the next 50 years, in return for a lump payment of $483 million.

That deal, one of the first of its kind at a large university, is a lot like the deal that Daniels made in 2006, after he took office the year before as Indiana’s first Republican governor in 16 years.  

Daniels’ decision to lease the money-losing Indiana Toll Road to private investors for $3.8 billion was part of a series of decisions he made to turn over a wide range of public services — from prison food to welfare payments — to private entities. In 2007, the New York Times dubbed him “Governor Privatize.”

The label has stuck, but Daniels argues it’s a misnomer. Much of what he’s done, from consolidating procurement across state agencies to selling off a fleet of unused state vehicles, was about making government more efficient, he said.

“I can’t get it through the thick heads of some people,” Daniels said. “They want to talk about privatization. I say, ‘You got the wrong p word. The p word we use is practical.’”

Daniels said his mission when he took office eight years ago, wasn’t to make the state government smaller — though he has, by reducing state personnel rolls to where they were in 1970s.

His mission, he said, was to make state government better, faster and cheaper.

He’s earned some sharp criticism for how he’s done that.

Labor leaders howled in protest when he ended collective bargaining for state employees and put performance-pay measures into place. Teachers and school administrators reacted angrily when he cut education spending to help balance the budget. Former Democrat House Speaker Pat Bauer called the toll road lease “a very, very bad deal,” and state legislators in his own party were among his toughest critics when efforts to privatize the state’s cumbersome welfare system went awry.

Daniels said there’s room for argument about how to make government better, faster and cheaper. But there should be no argument about the goal.

“If you’re a believer in limited government as I am, you should think that the sphere of its activity is limited and government shouldn’t get outside it,” Daniels said. “But inside it, you should be really determined…that every dollar be well-spent.

“And, on other hand, if you believe in a large and very active government, I would think you’d be the most offended of all if it’s botching the job and wasting money, because then it’s failing to serve people. You also should want every dollar spent well.”

Too often, he argues, ideologues on both sides fall short. “Too many in the first group stop when they think they’ve limited the government,” Daniels said. “And the second group acts like they don’t care at all if government is ridiculously wasteful and inefficient.”

When Daniels took office, he inherited an $800 million deficit and eight previous years of unbalanced budgets. As Daniels is wrapping up his final days in office, Indiana has a $1 billion surplus.

“The good news is government can shoot straight,” Daniels said, adding: “But it is not the natural order of things.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
State News
  • Warsaw man gets 120-year sentence in tire iron beating GOSHEN (AP) — A northern Indiana man has been sentenced to 120 years in prison for beating an 82-year-old man with a tire iron during a home invasion. An Elkhart County judge ordered the sentence Thursday for 26-year-old Jeffery Hunt of Warsaw after

    August 1, 2014

  • Semi crash coats I-465 lanes with spilled butter INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A semitrailer overturned on Interstate 465 in Indianapolis, spilling what police say are 45,000 pounds of packages of butter and other dairy products. The crash happened about 3:30 a.m. Friday in the eastbound lanes of I-465 just

    August 1, 2014

  • Indiana State Fair gets underway for 17-day run INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana State Fair is getting underway with its usual confections and hearty treats as well as alcoholic drinks for the first time in nearly 70 years. Friday's start of the fair also marks the return of paid concerts in the fa

    August 1, 2014

  • Carmel mayor uses social media to promote businesses along U.S. 31 CARMEL (AP) — Indianapolis-area restaurant and shop owners say business is down significantly as construction continues along U.S. 31. Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard on Thursday asked residents to eat and shop at businesses along U.S. 31 every day in Augu

    August 1, 2014

  • Murder charge filed in missing Shelbyville woman case SHELBYVILLE (AP) — The former boyfriend of a missing central Indiana woman has told police he struck and strangled her and buried her body. A probable cause affidavit filed in Shelby Superior Court on Thursday says 46-year-old Scott Schuck confessed

    August 1, 2014

  • Notre Dame might appeal case to US Supreme Court SOUTH BEND (AP) — The University of Notre Dame might appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in its challenge to part of the federal health care law that forces it to cover contraceptives in its health insurance for students and employees. Recently filed co

    August 1, 2014

  • Indy man gets 33 years for heroin, gun convictions INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indianapolis man convicted on 20 gun- and heroin-related counts has been sentenced to more than 33 years in prison District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker handed down the sentence of 400 months in prison to 39-year-old Anthony

    August 1, 2014

  • Evansville councilwoman won't be prosecuted over recording EVANSVILLE (AP) — The head of Indiana's State Board of Accounts says he will limit the participation of local officials in reviewing audits reports after a prosecutor's decision that an Evansville city councilwoman didn't break the law by secretly re

    July 31, 2014

  • Man sentenced for 2003 Indiana bank shootout INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge has ordered a 35-year prison sentence for a man convicted of shooting at a central Indiana police officer during a 2003 bank robbery. The sentence against 46-year-old Pascal Sylla comes after a jury convicted him i

    July 31, 2014

  • Teen charged in slaying of mom found dead in trunk GARY (AP) — A 17-year-old girl has been charged with murder in the death of her mother whose body was found in her car's trunk in a wooded area of Gary a few weeks ago. The charges filed by Lake County prosecutors on Wednesday follow the July 11 arre

    July 31, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

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

Should the U.S. impose a travel ban on three West African nations in response to a growing Ebola virus outbreak?

Yes
No
Not sure
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction
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.