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Letter to the editor: Single county executive is a bad idea

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 12:01 am

As a township trustee, someone on the front lines of local government, I can tell you firsthand that the single county executive proposal set to go before voters in November is a bad idea.

And while I agree with The News-Sentinel’s assessment that voters in Allen County have a choice before them, it’s a choice that pits an accessible government responsive to its constituents against a centralized government plan full of questions and with few answers.

If the single county executive plan passes, Allen County residents, both in the rural portions of the county and within Fort Wayne’s city limits, will see a reduction in the number of elected officials representing them at the county level. While it is true that the size of the council would increase by two additional members, it will come at the expense of our representative democracy. Voters would only vote for two county officials, the county executive and a single council member, whereas in the current setup voters select seven members of county government — their district council member, three at-large council members and three commissioners.

This paper applauded the reduced number of constituents represented by each official in the single county executive structure as the “biggest advantage” of the plan. However, that does not outweigh the fact that we will all lose representation, which the editorial called the “chief drawback.” It is more than that. It is the predominant reason for opposing this referendum.

The transfer of power from a committee of commissioners to a single individual dictating the direction of our county will do more harm than good. It will leave many rural constituents without a voice, diluting the influence of a wide range of residents in favor in special interests whispering in the ear of one person.

This loss of local control concerns trustees like me. The current setup has worked for nearly 200 years and is in no need of a drastic change like supporters of this plan suggest. I interact with constituents every day and know we all want a government that is closer and more responsible to the people. We do not want a government that is structured in such a way that one voice can determine the outcome of crucial decisions that affect the lives of every citizen of this county.

I agree with this paper’s sentiment that the single county executive proposal is a good reason to vote in November. But when you do, I urge you to cast a no vote to preserve local government units the way they have operated for decades.

Harold Kleine, trustee, Marion Township