Commissioner Peters responds

Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deb McMahan
and Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters
at a press conference earlier this week 

Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters has written a response to an Journal Gazette op-ed piece in which they called for an open and transparent government.

Some excerpts:

Commissioners are doing more with less

I am confused about the mixed message of open and transparent government that The Journal Gazette editorial page (rightfully) encourages when the editorial writers themselves appear to be guilty of commenting on the Allen County commissioners without using all of the facts at their disposal. For some reason, only one side of the story is so often told. A case in point is the editorial “Commissioners’ reality check” (April 17).

In that editorial, the writer erroneously opined that the Allen County commissioners were trying to lessen their workload through a departmental reorganization. The writer implied that the restructuring of the department would effectively create a fourth county commissioner. The editorial board has also suggested that in the largest and third most populous county in the state, the commissioners should be part time. Let’s get this straight. A county of this size deserves only a part-time effort?

The functions of commissioners across the state vary widely from county to county. In some counties, commissioners have both legislative and executive authority. In some they don’t. Some counties are very rural, while others are not. Some represent the whole county, while others represent only a portion. Some have huge populations, while others like Ohio County (population 5,623) are fairly small. Some have general fund budgets as large as a quarter of a billion dollars, while others have budgets of as little as $1.5 million. Allen County is probably one of the most diverse counties in the state.

The editorial chose to compare Allen County commissioners to those in Lake, Hamilton, Vanderburgh and St. Joseph counties. The editorial failed to mention, however, that commissioners in Lake County have only executive and not legislative responsibility; ditto for St. Joseph County. Lake County commissioners take responsibility for only a part of the county, not the whole.

The editorial further failed to mention that the population of Allen County is almost double that of Hamilton County and that the budget is significantly greater. Like Hamilton County, Vanderburgh has a significantly smaller population and operations than Allen County.

[…] The reason for reorganizing the department within the Allen County commissioners office was to do more with less, not to lessen the workload for commissioners and not to abdicate or push off any responsibility or work. The purpose was to get the biggest bang for the buck and to better manage the operation with fewer tax dollars.

What has not been noted is that the budgets that the commissioners are directly responsible for have been reduced by 35 percent since 2005. I don’t think that there are too many governmental units that can make that claim.

[…] There is no secret that I have been supportive of a single county executive, but part-time commissioners? If we believe that Allen County is a county that should be relegated to anything less than a first-class community, then I agree we should make our commissioners part time. Otherwise, let’s drop the debate and get on with making this community the best we can.

Four commissioners? Get real!

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