GUEST COMMENTARY: Trust local officials to do what's right

2013-03-24T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Trust local officials to do what's rightBy Joe Stahura nwitimes.com
March 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Why would mayors around the state support mass transit legislation that only affects central Indiana residents?

The legislation at the Statehouse authorizes a public referendum in those counties to let those voters decide if they want to locally fund a new mass transit system in central Indiana – at no cost to Hoosiers outside that area.

In other words, it puts the power to improve local infrastructure in the hands of local elected officials and residents.

That's why Trust Local, a statewide campaign sponsored by the nonpartisan Indiana Conference of Mayors, supports the mass transit bill. A key component of the Trust Local mission is the notion that there is no leadership closer to Hoosiers than local government, and local decision-makers are the most accountable to their respective constituencies and to taxpayers.

This session, Trust Local has embraced three legislative priorities: fighting methamphetamine production and use by curbing access to key ingredients, giving cities the power to combat abandoned homes and funding local roads and streets.

The push for mass transit falls under the latter category, and we believe it's time to let Hoosiers decide whether they want to move forward with the plan. It's our hope that lawmakers will see the merit not only in the mass transit vision for central Indiana, but also in the implications this measure will have statewide.

Too often, local elected officials like me feel hamstrung by lawmakers who believe they should make decisions about our part of the state in Indianapolis. I know we need to have the authority to make those decisions locally.

After all, if you disagree with something in our community, you're unlikely to hold someone at the Statehouse accountable. You'll look to City Hall or other local elected officials for someone to answer your questions and field your concerns.

As we look toward the future of Indiana, it's critical that lawmakers understand the role local government plays. Mass transit might not directly affect us in Northwest Indiana, but the voters of central Indiana should have the ability to improve their transportation infrastructure, solely at their own expense, if they feel that is best for their community. Its passage sends a strong signal that the General Assembly is willing to listen to voices like ours when it considers a local issue that requires legislative oversight.

Ultimately, I hope you'll join me in supporting mass transit because it sends the message that local opinions matter. Yours. Mine. Ours.

Whether or not you ever ride a bus in central Indiana, I hope you'll call Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, to support this plan. We need to make sure lawmakers hear our voices and understand the importance of returning Indiana government to our neighborhoods and communities.

Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura is president of the Indiana Conference of Mayors. The opinions are the writer's.

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