Too often in the region, local government is driven by blind loyalties to party platforms -- void of well-explained analysis by our political leaders regarding the reasoning behind their decisions.
Outgoing Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels saw this on a state and nationwide basis within his own party. Preparing to step down from the governor's chair after a two-term reign, Daniels recently admonished his party to become more relevant to voters -- not to change the things they genuinely support but to better explain why they support those ideals, issues or platforms.
Heading into 2013, the region's overwhelming Democratic leadership would do well to adopt their own version of Daniels' call to action. With the major challenges and changes facing our region in the new year, it is more important than ever for political leaders to avoid back-room political deals and use public forums to discuss all public business.
How often in Northwest Indiana -- particularly Lake County -- have we witnessed votes on important issues that have been preordained with political winks and nods outside of public forums? How often are votes on important policy issues swayed by the direction of the party line rather than true conscience? How often do our elected leaders make true attempts at communicating the reasoning behind their decisions to the public, and how often to we the voters truly hold them accountable?
Consider the issue of a possible local Lake County income tax heading into the new year. The same issue has been carried over into the past few years with no action and little explanation or accountability. It seems clear we need both the cutting of the county's long, wasteful ways and a new, sensible revenue source to overcome looming fiscal challenges.
But it's easier for some of our elected leaders -- and certainly more expedient to their reelection campaigns -- to just say no to the concept of a local income tax. They offer little reasoning. What seems clear is that the desire to end government waste is not behind their decision. They are largely the leaders who helped get the county into the fiscal mess it now faces.
So if our leaders oppose an income tax, isn't it incumbent on them to explain why and offer alternatives? In the new year, it would be nice for some of our leaders to sponsor more public forums -- such as town hall-style meetings -- to explain themselves on these issues, solicit input from the electorate and shoulder some accountability. And it would be equally important for the public -- disgruntled or otherwise -- to participate in such a process or to speak during public comment sections of local government meetings.
Our politicians owe this openness to us -- and we owe it to ourselves to remain engaged in the process.