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COMMUNITY VOICE

Antiquated model of county government stymies progress

Friday, July 25, 2014 - 12:01 am

I am honored and humbled to have served my constituents for three terms on the Allen County Council 3rd District, currently as president.

During that time I often have been frustrated by the inefficient model of government under which we continue to operate. This model has remained virtually unchanged since the early 1800s when Allen County was a frontier outpost. I am referring to the three-member County Commission, which by its cumbersome and time-consuming nature hinders the decision-making process.

Can you imagine Sweetwater Sound with three CEOs? No one would have final authority or accountability. Likewise, no one could be held responsible when things went wrong. Such is the case with the three-commissioner model we currently have.

On Nov. 4, Allen County citizens will have a chance to vote on a referendum that would create a new model of government, one with a single county executive. Although this would be “new” for Allen County, it is already used in 400 communities in 28 states.

The question on the ballot will state: “Shall the county government of Allen County be reorganized to place all executive powers in a single county executive and to place all legislative and fiscal powers in the County Council?”

What happens next? If the referendum passes, a single county executive will be elected in November 2018 to replace the current three-member County Commission. This elected official would provide a single point of leadership, contact and accountability for the county.

Like the governor of a state, the buck would stop with this individual. Also, he or she would be a single point of contact for economic development on the local, regional and national level. Allen County sorely needs this unified approach, for example, when courting companies that are considering bringing new jobs to our region.

Further, the County Council would increase from seven members to nine. Each member would be elected from contiguous single-member districts. Individual towns and neighborhoods would get a bigger voice and better representation than they have now. Instead of being just a fiscal body, the County Council would serve as the legislative branch, providing a system of checks and balances for the county executive. This should alleviate any fears that a single executive would be too powerful. Lastly, the three-member County Commission in its current form would cease to exist.

Allen County has a reputation for avoiding change. But this is a change we desperately need in order to make county government operate more efficiently and successfully. Join with other concerned Allen County voters to vote “yes” on the single county executive referendum. Your “yes” vote will help make county government more efficient, more accountable and more effective, which will ultimately benefit everyone.

Darren Vogt is president of the Allen County Council.