Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Writing Editorials

In today's JG, two editorials caught my eye.

First, it seems the editorial board has finally reached an "informed position" on the situation with the Olin B. and Desta Schwab Foundation, three days after Dan Stockman's front-page expose´ was published. Because it took so long to come up with an opinion, what they decided ought to happen has, uh, already happened.
An authoritative, independent and official review of how trustees have handled the assets of the Olin B. and Desta Schwab Foundation is in order, and Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter took the responsible action in deciding to do so.
Wouldn't you know -- state government reacting faster than the Journal Gazette editorial board!

The other editorial was about the meeting between city and county officials over moving to Renaissance Square I blogged about earlier today. The editorial board's insightful position? Stop being mean and bringing up things that happened in the past.
The best advice during Monday’s rare public meeting between Mayor Graham Richard and the Allen County commissioners to discuss the future of the City-County Building came from commissioner Nelson Peters. After the other commissioners stated their grievances with the mayor, Peters advised:

“Whatever has occurred up to this point, it makes no sense to rehash.”

Instead, Peters said, the task force that the meeting’s participants had just agreed to form needs to get down to the business of studying the space needs of both city and county government.

Peters, the newest commissioner, is right. Fort Wayne and Allen County taxpayers will benefit if the city and county work together to plan their mutual space needs. Citizens who must visit government offices in person will benefit if the two governments can combine, in convenient, one-stop centers, offices that people need to go to.
Yes, if we could just all forget about how we got here and let the Task Force study this issue in detail because we all know that forming a Task Force is going to help us deflect any criticism we might deserve for getting to this point. And who doesn't love forming a Task Force? (I do, as long as that means paying for another study by a "professional consultant"!)

But back to the editorial.
It is unfortunate the commissioners and Sheriff James Herman would not even consider the possibility of the sheriff’s department moving its command and some operations into a building with city police. “The sheriff doesn’t want to be downtown,” Commissioner Linda Bloom said. “He doesn’t serve the people downtown.”

Bloom was wrong. In fact, much of the Sheriff Department’s duties are directly related to the downtown courts and the downtown jail. More importantly, Bloom spoke as if the sheriff has the power to single-handedly decide where his offices will be. The commissioners, not the sheriff, will own the sheriff’s headquarters. Further, Herman will be out of office at the end of next year, and another sheriff might be more amenable to a downtown combination.
Yes, the Sheriff's Department does have many responsibilities downtown, but it's also responsible for policing the farthest reaches of Allen County, so it makes for its headquarters to be near an interstate rather than nestled somewhere downtown. And though Bloom's comment doesn't come off too well, it's true that downtown law enforcement is most often handled by the Police Department, not the Sheriff Department.

If you want to have the most effective and responsive law enforcement possible, does it really make sense to put both departments in the same building (or even in close vicinity), especially when the county's outlying areas are not easily accessible from downtown?
The commissioners raised good questions. What about the lack of parking at Renaissance Square? What would happen if the county vacated a number of downtown buildings? Both are among issues the task force should address, Richard said.
No, those are questions that Richard should have already found the answers to. After all, he's the one who wants to move to Renaissance Square; why should he get to form a Task Force to find justification for it? Again, the City has to make up its mind four months from now -- the time for forming task forces is over. That the mayor wants to do just that to find answers for questions he should already know is insulting to his constituents. (That would be you and me.)

The editorial concludes:
No question that the city’s timing is poor. Monday’s meeting should have taken place a year ago. County officials recently agreed to buy a building at Calhoun Street and The Landing for the courts and may well have to rearrange other offices before a space study is completed.

The commissioners haven’t helped, either, with their territorial approach to a number of city-county issues.

Both sides would best serve their constituents by dropping the territorialism and following Peters’ advice to look ahead instead of backward. City and county officials should go into the study with an open mind and look for the most efficient space plan that will best serve constituents at the most responsible costs.
So there you have it, the JG's controversial position on this important issue: Go into (yet another) study with an open mind, and find something that will use the space the best for the least amount of money.

How about chastising the City for being derelict in its duty and sending Dan Stockman over to Renaissance Square to investigate just how feasible moving all the City offices there would actually be? Then we would be getting somewhere...and saving the City from having to spend a lot of money on another study!

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