Education & Workforce Development and Government

Commentary: It's time to split Indiana in two

April 2, 2007

A couple of years ago, during the daylight-saving time debate, a caller into my radio show suggested Indiana be divided into two time zones, one Eastern, one Central, with U.S. 31 as the dividing line. The caller suggested that, this way, people who wanted to be in the Eastern time zone could live in the eastern half of the state and those who wanted to be on Central time could live in the western half.

I told the caller he was being ridiculous, but now that I think about it, with all the issues in Indiana today, I'm starting to think that caller was right, but for the wrong reason. Indiana should be divided into two, not according to time zones, but time itself: those of us who prefer the future versus those who are destined to remain in the past.

Recent events have drawn me to this conclusion. Gov. Mitch Daniels has withdrawn his proposal for the Commerce Connector, a privately run toll road that would wrap around Indianapolis connecting both sides of Interstate 69. He also had to scale back plans for the Illiana expressway. Now, plans to finish I-69 are in jeopardy because money to pay for the project would have come from the Commerce Connector. However, the people opposed to progress would rather drive a horse and buggy or use a vehicle that would make Fred Flintstone proud than see new roads built.

Another state issue being debated is privatization. The governor wants to privatize or franchise the state lottery and use the money to bring more smart people to Indiana (because Lord knows the state could use them) by expanding opportunities at the state's colleges and universities. This plan has run into roadblocks because some folks have in their heads that the private sector can't operate a government entity better than the government, even though the lottery is not a mandatory function of government.

If you put it in perspective, there is a strong segment of Indiana's population that has opposed the progress this state has made over the past 2-1/2 years. And we're not talking about a healthy debate about the issues, but just flat out naysayers. They opposed DST. They opposed leasing the toll road to pay for other road projects. They oppose school choice that would uplift the quality of public education across the state. They oppose any expansion of gambling and reforming the state's outdated alcohol laws. And don't even get me started on the same-sex marriage amendment, mass transit or telecommunications reform.

So if these people have all this opposition to progress and the rest of us want progress, the only thing to do is divide Indiana into two states: "New Indiana" and "Old Indiana." I'm not sure how the lines would be drawn, but I'm sure some equitable distribution could be worked out. Fundamentally, New Indiana would consist of people who believe in progress, while still remembering the past and keeping it in perspective. Old Indiana would consist of people who like to burn witches at the stake and use sundials to tell time.

New Indiana would consist of a mix of skyscrapers, residential neighborhoods, thriving suburbs and healthy surrounding farmland. Old Indiana's idea of commerce would be a general store run by Mr. Drucker from "Green Acres," with Mr. Haney coming by on occasion.

New Indiana would be a hopeful, optimistic place where people aspire to greater things. New Indiana would be a place where change is not feared and progress is not seen as a monster. Old Indiana would be the place where new ideas and new thinking are treated like Michael Jackson showing up to baby-sit.

If splitting Indiana into two states doesn't work, we can always move the people who hate change into underground caverns and bunkers. Hey, they've had their heads in the sand for years when it comes to the state's problems, so it's only fitting we put the rest of them there.



Shabazz is the morning show host on WXNT-AM 1430 and of counsel at the law firm of Lewis & Wilkins. His column appears monthly. He can be reached by e-mail at ashabazz@ibj.com.
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