I keep hearing and reading stories of people clamoring for “bold”, “new”, and “innovative” leadership for national and state leaders. When it comes to Indiana politics, I don’t think it’s so unwieldy or difficult to think about deeply and with purpose.
So when I hear “bold leadership is needed” by the likes of Governor Mike Pence and his upcoming Democratic challenger John Gregg, I don’t always hear much bold anything. It’s usually a twist on some existing policy or announcement. Like Tuesday’s announcement from Pence that we’d magically make $1B appear over the next three years to fix some state roads, but not all, and not with much gusto, and not with anything for local governments where people actually tend to, you know, live.
I had some ideas rattling around in my head on what I’d consider to be actually “bold” leadership ideas to fix what is arguably one of America’s worst states in a variety of areas that aren’t that hard to fix:
- Double the cigarette tax over the next three years, pulling Indiana to about the 3rd place for highest cost per pack in the nation and reducing us from the dubious position of having one of the highest smoking rates in the nation.
- Require all restaurants with more than 5 locations to display calorie counts on menus. Indiana’s obesity rate is 9th in the nation.
- Tie the gas tax to the rate of inflation so we stop getting in this crunch of road funding before we get too far behind.
- Pence says “if you’re going to call yourself the Crossroads of America, you’d better have the roads to back it up.” Well, if you’re going to call Indiana one of the best business climates in America, you’d better have the workforce to back that up. And ours sucks. Hoosiers are overweight, poorly educated, and in poor health. So declare no new roads (looking at you, Kentucky bridge to nowhere), and divert new roads’ funding to the construction of trails, parks, multi-use paths, and invest heavily in local governments. No one was asking for roads around small towns.
- Finally eliminate township government. No one knows who those people are anyway and their work can just as well be done by Counties.
- Guarantee access to library service for every Hoosier through a statewide rural library service system. We have one of the highest numbers of Carnegie libraries in the country, yet 41% lack coverage and some pay for it and don’t even get to use it.
- Vision 0 for the whole state. We rank 23rd for pedestrian deaths. Mostly because we’re too cheap to build some tiny little sidewalks.
- Get a handle on why there are too many cities, towns, and counties sharing police protection. In Indianapolis alone, who do you think is our “top cop”? The Sheriff, the Public Safety Director, or the Mayor? If you guessed the Mayor, you’re weirdly right. Yet the other two positions also exist. In rural counties where Sheriff’s deputies patrol rural areas, small towns end up picking up the slack outside their jurisdictions all the time, just because they were slightly closer to an emergency. It’s time to establish a mechanism to let cities, towns, and counties have merged police departments with a clear person in charge at the top.
- Add statewide non-discrimination protection of gays, lesbians, and transgender Hoosiers (John Gregg has proposed this).
- Recommend the establishment of 4 or 5 year term limits for a variety of offices, including Governor, mayors, sheriffs, representatives, and councilors. There’s decreasing value in having a lawmaker spend 30 years in an office.
- Independent, non-partisan, districting commissions. To our credit, we have one of the least-gerrymandered maps in the country (2nd to Nevada) … for federal offices. State offices are a disaster.
- Child welfare services, such as advocates, investigators, foster care, child advocacy centers, and protective services, should all be under the umbrella of the State’s funding.