EDITORIAL: History works against cities' Trust Local campaign

2012-12-09T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: History works against cities' Trust Local campaign nwitimes.com
December 09, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The push for home rule for Hoosier municipalities is understandable, from their standpoint, but their own history is against them.

Indiana municipalities have been asking for home rule for years, arguing for flexibility that would let them tax gasoline sales in communities along the state line, for example. That would use "other people's money" to help fund local government.

But some Lake County municipalities have shown a decided lack of restraint in the past.

Look at when Hammond, Gary and some other communities have sky-high property tax rates because their leaders were spendthrifts then.

Look also at how difficult it has been to roll back spending to meet new realities. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott had to try several times to get the City Council to jettison the health department.

In Gary, the spending was so out of control that the state Legislature had to create the Distressed United Appeals Board to coerce the city into making the necessary budget cuts.

Now Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura, president of the Indiana Conference of Mayors, and his counterparts across the state are promoting their Trust Local campaign.

"There's some decisions that belong on the local level that should never make it to the Statehouse, and every year we see a disturbing trend of the Statehouse taking ownership of problems we should solve locally," Stahura said. "Let us handle the local stuff at home."

Mayors are concerned about declining funds for local roads, the lack of local tools to clean up abandoned properties and the availability of ingredients used to make methamphetamine. Among the mayors' ideas is to be able to charge banks fees for cutting lawns and providing other care at bank-owned properties.

Stahura is doing a good job in Whiting, but not every municipal official is as trustworthy.

Local spending sprees in some communities are what brought about the property tax revolution, and subsequent tax caps, in the first place. 

Trust local? That's hard to do now after that trust was violated in the past.

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