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From Left Field

May 8, 2012

By BOB SHRALUKA
    A new Indiana law taking effect on July 1 is designed to address nepotism in government.
    Starting with the 2014 elections, someone cannot be elected to a council or board if he/she is an employee of that agency. Two members of Decatur City Council, Charlie Cook and Bill Crone, will not be affected as both are Adams County employees, Cook with the sheriff's department (resource officer at Adams Central) and Crone with the prosector's office.
    They wouldn't be ousted in 2014, anyway, since they were elected to new four-year terms last year.
    Beginning in 2014, though, city employees — including police — will be barred from seeking an elected city office, as will county employees not be able to seek a seat on county council or the county commission, for instance.
    There is some difficulty here with that portion of the law since it could eliminate from consideration some potentially solid members of a governing body. Cook, for example, has been an effective member of city council for a number of years. Under the new law, though, he could not serve beyond his current term were he still with the city police department, as he was at one time.
    One can see, though, how, in a much larger community, such a position could be severely abused, and without transparency.
    Another portion of the new law deals with the sheerest form of nepotism: hiring and/or overseeing family members.
    It demands that anti-nepotism and conflict of interest disclosure standards be established by local units of government. The law will not force governmental bodies into firing employees to comply with the anti-nepotism standards, but it will require full, public disclosure of any situations involving nepotism.
    And nepotistic hirings will be banned.

Double your request to meet goal
    So, in the midst of all the hard times and public attempts to help those struggling, Indiana Michigan Power is requesting a rate increase which I &M says would hike the typical bill by 22 percent. Ouch!
    If the request is approved in full by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), people who pay $86 a month now would see that bill jump to $106. Ouch again!
    It is, of course, an old shell game. I&M files a request for a large-scale increase, more than it really wants, knowing that the IURC folks will cut it in half or maybe a little more. So the utility winds up with 10 percent or so, which it is more than happy with, even though it will emit sounds of pain and suffering and anguish.
    If I&M asked 10 percent at the outset, of course, it would get probably only five percent, and then it would wind up short of what it really desires.
    I&M spokesman David Mayne told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that the utility has spent $440 million on its system since its last rate increase and deserves a fair recovery on that investment.
    Sure, except that its customers don't know if that entire investment was necessary. Or pertinent. Or without some padding here and there. That's another part of the shell game.

Then there's the political waste
    Speaking of shell games, don't you love it when the presidential pols and their oodles of spokespeople fill the air and the airwaves with blather about who can best create jobs, help the downtrodden masses, and still shrink the deficit — and spend (waste would be a better word) hundreds of millions of dollars to do so?
    Sorry, but it's just incredibly sick to see millions upon millions of dollars being poured into these campaigns — mostly to dump on the other guy, much of the time with hedged truths and outright lies — while people are struggling, most of them through no fault of their own.
    It's worse then ever now, far worse than ever, due to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.
    So the haves spend away and the have-nots look for ways to feed their kids. Meanwhile, the haves continue to tell the have-nots that this isn't a two-class society.

  

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