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Commentary: Andrew Steele: Easy way may be the only way, but it isn’t right

Updated: February 19, 2013 12:18PM



One thing about public policy-making, especially the more complex it becomes, is that the easiest solution to a problem is almost always the one adopted.

That’s often the case in many activities outside policy-making, but policy-making is the area that almost never produces difficult decisions, whatever policy-makers might say to the contrary.

That’s clearly become the case with the Calumet Township situation. The township spends too much money on administration; the town of Griffith finds that intolerable; the House of Represenatives responds by passing a bill that would allow Griffith to remove itself from the township.

If the Senate passes and the governor signs the bill, Griffith could beging the process of exiting Calumet Township on July 1. Presumably it would do so, and it’s difficult to see why a self-interested Griffithite should vote not to leave the township in the required referendum.

So, the easy solution to the difficult problem, unless it fails — as it has in the past — in the Senate (which would mean no solution to a difficult problem.

It’s actually two problems: poor township administration; and the use of the arbitrarily drawn township as the vehicle for providing poor relief.

The difficult but more appropriate way to deal with the problems is to get rid of townships, but that could unravel a whole host of issues regarding local government, and politicians these days are much too insecure for that. It’s the kind of thing a commission of retired politicians can agree to collegially, but the active ones avoid like the plague.

At any rate, though Griffith’s position on this is understandable, the proposed solution does nothing to solve the actual problems. It will probably allow Griffith to add to its municipal budget, and force Calumet Township to lower its budget, and to the extent those things are worthy goals, fine. But it doesn’t address the anachronistic and arbitrary way public finances are handled, more specifically the way pockets of relative poverty are provided aid.

One unfortunate fact of politics is that policy-makers are often rewarded for doing the easy thing, because the people who benefit from that easy thing are willing to tout its makers as political heroes.

If the Griffith-Calumet Township bill goes through, it should be recognized as a failure; if it doesn’t, that should be recognized as a failure. Maybe if people would do that, politicians would stop taking pride in taking the easy way.

Maybe.



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