Rich James: Lake County leaders sound more like whiners
August 18, 2011 8:22PM
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:30AM
What a week it’s been, and no, I’m not talking about the Republican debacle in Iowa.
No, I’m talking about right here back home in Lake County. Where Democrats are Democrats.
What happened was that, finally, after almost four years of bellyaching, someone said enough is enough.
They said it was time to end the unconstitutional state-imposed property tax levy freeze in Lake County.
I’ve got to say, I was surprised.
You would have thought that sometime over the last four years that someone from county government, or municipal government or township government would have filed suit to end the nonsense.
Elected officials groused about it at every turn — wringing their hands and wiping their brows — not sure if life as they knew it would go on.
I seem to remember each of them wearing a Chicken Little lapel pin.
But, did they do anything but give lip service to their plight? Nope.
Then it happened. It was right there on the front page of the Post-Tribune Wednesday morning.
Two county police officers — Daniel Murchek and Robert Klasner — filed suit against the state, alleging that the state’s action to freeze the levy because the county wouldn’t impose an income tax was unconstitutional.
Never again will I wonder, “Where is a cop when you need one?” Nope. God bless those two guys.
Included in that Wednesday morning news article about the lawsuit was a comment from County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, saying he wanted commissioners and the County Council to join the suit.
Later in the day, a voice mail from Scheub said his phone had been ringing off the hook.
Scheub said representatives from several towns and cities had called saying they were interested in joining the suit as well.
You would have thought someone was giving away shots and beers at the corner tavern.
All this got me to thinking about what I had heard a couple of weeks ago.
I was told that there will be an effort to revive a portion of the Kernan/Shepard report on local government reform at the upcoming session of the General Assembly.
That report, which was commissioned by Gov. Mitch Daniels and came out about the time the state froze Lake County’s money, had close to three dozen recommendations on how to bring local government out of the Dark Ages.
One of the proposals was that the three-member boards of county commissioners be eliminated and replaced by a single, elected county administrator. A mayor if you will.
Kind of like a city. Ever heard of a city with three mayors?
Rather than pushing a bill to make the change in county government mandatory, it will be optional.
Being optional, it means that some very rural counties may adopt such a change, but it will never happen in Lake County.
That got me to thinking a little further. What if Lake County did opt to make the change and elect a lone county administrator?
While that would be a whale of a campaign to cover, I got a bit perplexed when I tried to put my finger on a candidate who could lead this diverse county.
And, I kept coming up empty. And I suddenly understood why.
If there wasn’t an elected official with the chutzpah to tell the state where to go after four years of thievery, I can’t imagine one stepping forward to lead a county of almost 500,000 on a daily basis.
And, therein lies the problem — a lack of leadership.
Rich James’ column appears on Fridays.