The elections are next week, so I thought I’d share some of my views. It strikes me that people like myself (conservative proponents of small government) frequently bemoan the problems of big government and the fact that decisions are made at a federal level that should be left to local government. However, we just as frequently have little knowledge or investment in some of the local government decisions closest to us. In light of that, I’d like to take a look at the choices many of us will face next week.
To see exactly what races and questions you will have an opportunity to vote on, find your precinct at the Indiana Voters site, then find the ballot you will vote on at the Allen County Election page.
I won’t say much on the Presidential level, because we all hear about that race every day. I’ll be voting for John McCain and Sarah Palin. I believe that they come closer to representing my values and their vision for the federal government is closer to what I believe it should be.
For the 3rd Congressional District, I’ll be voting for Mark Souder. I don’t know enough about Mike Montagano to know what we stands for, how he would vote, and how effective he could be as a congressman. If he wants to shape public policy, I think he should gain some experience in the political arena first. Although Souder may make some decisions I disagree with, in general I believe he votes in a manner consistent with Christian morals and a conservative view of government.
For Governor, I’ll be voting for Mitch Daniels. I can’t say that I can think of anything in particular that Frank O’Bannon, Evan Bayh, or any previous governors accomplished. I think Daniels has made great progress at actually effecting positive change in Indiana. My impression is that he is very objective and seeks input from qualified individuals to help him make the best decisions. I have not heard Jill Long-Thomson offer much in the way of specifics that would make her a better choice for Governor.
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
In the race for Attorney General, I do not know much about either Greg Zoeller or Linda Pence. Zoeller is the current Deputy Attorney General. Some have indicated that Pence has a background of defending some rather shady characters in corruption cases in Northwest Indiana (google “sidewalks for votes”). Unless I learn something that changes my mind, I’ll be voting for Zoeller. (Note: Zoeller did respond positively to the Indiana Right for Life survey: view pdf here .)
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION
One race in particular that I think could have significant impact is the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The teachers unions are backing Richard Wood, who is opposed to vouchers for private education, favors restrictions on homeschooling, and opposes allowing qualified professionals to teach without first getting licensed as a teacher. He also favors increased taxes, abortion rights, and other “rights” to practice immorality. On the other side is Tony Bennett. In responding to questions from the Indiana Family Institute, he did not respond to questions not related to education, but on the three education-related questions in IFI’s voter guide, Dr. Bennett scores high marks in my view. I’ll be voting for Tony Bennett. (Download a pdf of the voter guide here, or an expanded voter guide with comments at focusvoter.com .) (Also see the News-Sentinel’s endorsement of Bennett.)
FWCS BOARD OF EDUCATION
Another educational race is the local Fort Wayne Community Schools board. Last year the board tried to implement a spending package of $500 million or more that would have significantly raised property taxes. The necessity of some of the spending was questionable, and the board was unwilling to compromise. Only one member of the board voted against the exorbitant spending: Jon Olinger. If you have a chance to vote for Jon Olinger, I recommend him as a reasonable voice on the board who will try to do what is best for the students and the school system as a whole, not being swayed by the administration’s wish list. The man who rallied Fort Wayne to stop the $500 million spending package was Evert Mol, who is a long-time volunteer and tutor in FWCS. He is running against Steve Corona, a long-time fixture on the FWCS board. Corona has had his chance to prove that he will make FWCS schools more efficient and effective, and in my view he doesn’t have much to show. I will be voting for Evert Mol. (Also see the News-Sentinel’s take on the FWCS board.)
ALLEN COUNTY TREASURER
In the race for Allen County Treasurer, current deputy treasurer Susan Orth is running against Maria Parra. I know little about either one, but my inclination is to vote for the Sue Orth based on the experience that she will bring to the office having already served as deputy treasurer. (The Journal Gazette and News-Sentinel both endorse Orth.)
ALLEN COUNTY COUNCIL
For the Allen County Council, there are five people running for three positions. I don’t know much about any of them, but I do know I won’t vote for Kevin Knuth. I will probably vote for Moss and Buskirk, the Republican incumbents, and Armstrong unless I learn something that convinces me that Susan Hoot is a better candidate. (Note: the Journal-Gazette and News-Sentinel both recommend Moss, Buskirk, and Hoot.)
There are five Indiana judges up for votes on whether they should be retained in office. Again, I don’t know much about any other them, other than the fact that Randall Shepard is the current Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. You can review decisions written by various judges at the Indiana judicial retention site. It’s pretty hard to wade through the cases trying to find something that is both understandable and offers a view of their character and competence. The Indiana Right to Life organization reviewed decisions that were made on abortion-related cases. Based on that information, it appears that Theodore Boehm has allowed his personal view that abortion is a basic civil right to cloud his judgment. I will be voting against his retention. Brent Dickson, on the other hand, showed a rational approach that upheld the constitution and basic human dignity. I will vote for his retention. I am also inclined to vote for the retention of Randall Shepard. I will probably abstain from voting on the retention of Carr Darden or Thomas Fisher, because at this point I just don’t know anything about them.
Other than some uncontested races, the remaining question on the ballet for many of us will be the question of whether “the assessing duties of the elected township assessor in the township [should] be transferred to the county assessor?” A little background on this question: in the past, it has been the duty of an elected township assessor to determine property values for homes in their township. They then turn this information over to the county assessor, who, along with the county council, determine the county-wide property tax rate. There has been a lot of scrutiny recently on the accuracy and efficiency of the assessed values, with some people seeing large swings in value, and some finding their property assessed for much more than it is actually worth. An independent, non-partisan group (led by former governor Joe Kernan and Chief Justice Randall Shepard) studied the topic of making local government more efficient, and presented their recommendations to Governor Daniels. One of their recommendations was to maintain uniform assessments by having assessments be carried out under the authority of the county assessor, rather than performed independently by various township assessors. The state legislature took up this concern this past year, and agreed that assessing duties should be given to the county assessor. However, they only stipulated that smaller townships would be affected. For larger townships, they decided to leave the question up to the voters. 95% (900+) of the townships in Indiana now have their property assessments performed under the auspices of the county assessor, but the largest 43 get to vote on it next week.
Normally, I would advocate that decisions with local impact should be made as locally as possible. However, assessing property values isn’t so much a “decision” as simply a task that needs to be carried out as accurately and efficiently as possible. Since the goal of assessing property values is to establish tax rates for the entire county, it makes sense for the county assessor to hold the responsibility for the assessments. Also, since county assessors now have the responsibility for 95% of the townships, it seems logical to keep the process consistent by putting the other 5% under their authority also. Visit MySmartGov.org to read more about this topic. I will be voting “Yes” to transfer assessing duties to the county assessor. (Also see the Journal Gazette’s take on this issue.)
How are you voting? Are there facts I haven’t considered?
(Note: In addition to the voter guides mentioned above from the Indiana Family Institute and Indiana Right to Life, the Allen County Right to Life has a similar guide (in pdf format) with responses from local candidates here.)