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CHRIS KATTERJOHN Commentary: Legislature has big responsibility

February 7, 2005

CHRIS KATTERJOHN

Commentary Legislature has big responsibility

We stand on the threshold of greatness.

Wait; let me say that again. "We stand on the threshold of greatness."

Now, say it to yourself, making sure to insert a pregnant pause after the word "stand" and imagining you hear it in the booming radio voice of FDR.

It's one of those platitudes that could've been contrived by a speechwriter for any number of inaugural addresses, including those of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy or George W. Bush. Perhaps even Mitch Daniels or Bart Peterson. Which brings me to my point. This year, the Indiana General Assembly has an unprecedented chance to pass legislation that will have a dramatic impact on both the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis. Its actions could-or could not-put the state and city on the road to greatness.

It has the responsibility to think progressively and to act in a nonpartisan fashion at a moment of perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and need.

I don't think I overstate the situation, and the atmosphere is ripe for change.

For the city, the General Assembly must pass legislation to lay the groundwork for both the convention center expansion/stadium project and for Peterson's Indianapolis Works plan.

Both projects are critical if we are to stay on the enviable trajectory of growth and progress we've enjoyed the past few decades.

The convention center expansion and new stadium will allow us to keep our National Football League team, but, more important, to ratchet up our convention business greatly, bringing jobs to the city and generating additional revenue for business and government for years to come.

Indianapolis Works-which will consolidate city and county law enforcement and fire departments, streamline townships, protect wobbly public-safety pension funds, and create budget efficiencies and better accountability-will complete what Unigov began and save the city tens of millions annually.

Both are no-brainers.

On these two fronts, the General Assembly has the responsibility of hammering out a funding structure for the expansion and stadium, and must pass a bill that legally allows the restructuring proposed by Indianapolis Works. House Bill 1435, which addresses Indianapolis Works, was scheduled to have its first committee hearing Feb. 2.

If this bill or its companion in the Senate passes this year, we can immediately begin the work of making local change happen, with the result being a more efficient, effective city government that's easier to manage, and one that lays the groundwork to move forward on more sound financial footing.

The time is now.

Addressing the state's needs, legislators have the responsibility to at least begin the process of implementing many of the changes proposed by newly elected Gov. Mitch Daniels. They should read his election by the people of Indiana as a resounding vote for change, a resounding call to action. They should embrace that mentality.

Doubtless, there are myriad possible combinations of ways to get there-that is, to accomplish Daniels' goals of fiscal responsibility, eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, enhance economic development, improve government service to Hoosiers, and bring the state's finances in order.

While all the players who are party to this process don't agree on the specifics of how to get the job done, they must-underline must-be willing to sacrifice some of their own ideas and act boldly-underline boldly-to accomplish the task.

The fact that Republicans now control the Governor's Office, the House and the Senate is a pleasant circumstance for the political junkie, and it ultimately may be the one reality that ensures the realization of the new administration's goals.

I would hope, however, that all the people involved come to this year's game more as responsible citizens aware of the high stakes on the table than as political animals who are mostly interested in holding their party's line and getting re-elected.

The future of the city and the state depend on it.



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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